Group letter to the next UK government on trade policy and climate change

Posted on June 07, 2017
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This letter was originally published in The Guardian.

As the Trump administration prepares to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement, we believe the UK must use its trade policy to reaffirm and strengthen a globally coordinated response to climate change – one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. As such, we call on the next UK government to:

• Require ratification of the Paris agreement and a commitment to its goal of avoiding more than 1.5 degrees of warming as a precondition for entering into trade and investment agreements with the UK. 

• Consider trade measures to tackle “environmental dumping”, where countries gain an unfair advantage by not taking action on climate change.

• Guarantee a legally binding right to regulate to protect the environment in all future trade and investment agreements signed by the UK.

Effectively, trade policy already is climate policy. Agreements can limit the regulatory freedom of governments to take action on protecting the climate, or empower polluting industries to sue governments in private tribunals over environmental policies and decisions. International trade can also lead to a “race to the bottom”’ on environmental standards as companies and investors seek out the most lax jurisdictions. With an estimated quarter of all emissions embedded in internationally traded goods, it will not be possible to tackle climate change, or harness the huge economic opportunities of the low carbon economy, without recognising that trade policy must begin to play a positive role.

Paul Keenlyside Coordinator, Trade Justice Movement, Chris Baugh Assistant general secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union, Asad Rehman Executive director, War on Want, Nick Dearden Director, Global Justice Now, David Powell Environment lead, New Economics Foundation, Tim Aldred Head of policy and research, The Fairtrade Foundation, Sam Lowe Campaign lead, Friends of the Earth