Protect our climate and health, not multinational profits
OraTaiao press release | 15 Feb 2015
Protect our climate and health, not multinational profits
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council strongly supports this week’s call by international health advocates for the public release of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiating text, for a health check.
This week’s edition of world-leading medical journal The Lancet includes a call by 27 health experts from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, the USA, and Vietnam (including leaders of the World Medical Association and World Federation of Public Health Associations) for the TPPA to be made public so its overall health impacts can be assessed.
“Leaked documents indicate the TPPA will have far-reaching implications, including undermining our ability to protect our climate and the future health of New Zealanders – yet the entire agreement is still being kept secret from the public,” says OraTaiao co-convenor Dr Rhys Jones.
“The biggest threat is the new ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) clause. This means overseas companies will be able to sue our government if they suspect any law change might threaten their profits. Yet our government will not be able to sue those companies for damage to our climate, health and economy.
“Under the TPPA, the New Zealand government could find itself hamstrung in efforts to reduce climate damaging emissions and to promote health. Overseas governments are being sued for millions of dollars as a result of similar provisions in other trade agreements. For example, Germany faces legal action over closing a nuclear power plant and reducing emissions from a coal-fired power plant
“If governments can face costly legal action over simply protecting the health of their people, we urgently need to run a health check on what’s being negotiated for New Zealand.
“The irony is that this same week in Geneva talks continue towards international agreement on climate action, and 13-14 February marks Global Divestment Day as the world increasingly turns from fossil fuels towards clean renewable energy. Yet our government is secretly locking New Zealand into an unhealthy deal to protect corporate profits.”
Dr Jones says negotiating documents in a similar trade deal between the EU and the US are now revealed, after the EU Ombudsman ordered their public release.
“This sets an important precedent that TPPA countries can and should follow.
“The world’s expert climate scientists have told us we need to rapidly move towards a low or zero emissions economy. It’s time to protect our climate and our health, not multinational profits,” Dr Jones says.
Dr Rhys Jones (Ngati Kahungunu) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland. He co-convenes OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.
The call by 27 health leaders and experts, from seven Pacific Rim nations, will be published in the Saturday 14 February 2015 print issue of The Lancet, and is available online from Friday 13 February 1pm NZDT at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/issue/current under ‘Correspondence’. Lead signatories/co-authors are from New Zealand and Australia.
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council are senior doctors and other health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See: www.orataiao.org.nz
According to the latest expert climate science (IPCC AR5 WG1,http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf), for a two-thirds chance of staying within the internationally agreed limit of 2oC warming of our planet, we need to emit less than half a trillion tonnes of greenhouse gases over the next 35 years.*
*(Specifically, to give a >66% chance of staying below 2oC, the IPCC calculated 1 trillion tonnes as the maximum amount of CO2 emittable over the industrial period; by 2011 the world had already used 515 billion tonnes CO2 of that budget, hence 485 billion tonnes remaining; http://www.nzcphm.org.nz/media/74101/2._nzcphm_cc_supplement_1__final_comms_version2_.pdf.)
Professor Lord Nicholas Stern’s prominent report on climate change (2007) showed how failing to act on climate change will produce profoundly greater costs and damage to the economy and human health, but probable economic gains by moving quickly on emissions reductions. Lord Stern was UK government advisor and former World Bank Chief Economist. The Stern Review is available athttp://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130129110402/http:/www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/stern_review_report.htm
Stern N. The economics of climate change: the Stern review. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a proposed trade agreement between New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Peru, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam. It has been criticised globally by health professionals, internet freedom activists, environmentalists, organised labour, advocacy groups, and elected officials, in large part because of the proceedings’ secrecy, the agreement’s expansive scope, and controversial clauses in drafts leaked publicly.
The Lancet statement calls on governments to publicly release the full draft TPPA text, and to secure independent and comprehensive assessments of health impacts for each nation (which evaluate direct, indirect, short- and long-term impacts of the TPPA on public health policy and regulation, publicly funded health systems, the cost of medicines, and health equity).
Last year over 250 senior New Zealand health professionals signed an open letter of concern to the Prime Minister about the risks of the TPP (http://www.orataiao.org.nz/TPPA+letter). Their concerns included the way that trade agreements could stifle laws to protect against hazardous substances (such as plain packaging on tobacco), interfere with environmental health and safety legislation or block necessary controls on excessive use of drugs manufactured by transnational companies.
Several leaks of the TPPA environment chapter, which were posted on Wikileaks in January and again in February 2014, indicate that it will do nothing to protect New Zealand’s right to introduce new measures to address climate change (https://wikileaks.org/tppa-environment-chapter.html).
More detail on investor state clauses and the implications for New Zealand can be found at http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/th_gallery/investor-state-dispute-settlement-isds/. This includes Germany currently facing two investment disputes brought by Swedish firm Vattenfall.*
*(After the Stern report on climate change, Germany took measures to reduce the damaging effects of carbon dioxide emissions from a coal-fired power plant owned by Vattenfall, and this is being challenged. Then Germany closed a nuclear power plant following the Fukushima disaster, and this too is being challenged. These challenges do not claim that the power plants are safe, but that investors are losing out.)
Negotiating documents in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the European Union and the US have recently been publicly released, following the EU Ombudsman’s order to make these public (http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/cases/decision.faces/en/58668/html.bookmark).
The latest session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP2.8) is underway from 8-13 February in Geneva, Switzerland (http://unfccc.int/2860.php). This meeting is part of the pathway to Paris in December this year to reach agreement on global climate action at the Conference of the Parties. Over the next few months New Zealand will be required to submit our plan to reduce climate-damaging emissions.
Friday 13 and Saturday 14 February mark Global Divestment Day, with events organised around the world, including New Zealand, to accelerate the global trend to withdraw from investment in fossil fuels (http://gofossilfree.org/divestment-day/#g).