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Enforcing Environmentalism
Green Outrage at New TPP Leak

Wikileaks struck again earlier this week, releasing a draft report of the Environment Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The report was written in much the same style as the edicts issued after the annual meeting of the do-nothing UNFCCC: a lot of verbiage surrounding what countries should be doing to protect the environment and stave off climate change, but no binding resolutions to back up these suggestions. As predictable as this lack of enforcement mechanisms should have been, various green groups are shocked, shocked, that the enormously complex trade agreement didn’t include green provisions with any real bite. Reuters reports:

“The most glaring omission is the lack of fully enforceable environmental provisions,” World Wildlife Fund senior program officer Vanessa Dick said. “If parties do not meet obligations within the environment chapter, then there is no enforceability, there would be no applicable sanctions.” […]

“This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues – oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections – and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a joint release [with the World Wildlife Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council].

To be sure, some of the issues these green groups are concerned about are important. Overfishing is a serious problem, as is the international trade of endangered species. That countries can’t agree on binding efforts toward these ends (in this instance, the United States is pushing for stronger environmental protections while the TPP’s other parties balk) underscores the difficulty of green policymaking at the international level. It’s hard to put in place regulations that will often restrict economic growth for the sake of concepts like biodiversity; obtaining an international consensus on nature’s value is understandably hairy.

These environmental concerns are much better handled at the national level, especially when policymakers pursue goals that help the economy as well as the environment. To that end, we have plenty of options available that complement sustainable development, like energy efficiency measures, the pursuit of natural gas, or even telework. Green groups may be outraged at the TPP’s “toothless” offerings, but given the Global Climate Treaty’s abysmal track record, this shouldn’t be surprising. Their efforts would be better spent elsewhere.

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