In some small ways, U.S. President Barack Obama has tried to act against climate-change, such as his Administration’s regulatory action — snubbed recently by the five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court (they’re even more troglodyte than he is) — to limit CO2 emissions from coal-powered electric power plants; and such as his rejection of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline which would be used to export ultra-dirty Canadian tar-sands oil to Europe and Latin America. None of those Administration actions, even if carried through, will have any significant impact on climate-change, though they would help a little.
What will, however, have an enormous impact upon climate-change, and which President Obama has been working ardently for, behind the scenes, ever since he first became President, is to block the future ability of nations to legislate new and tougher regulations against dirty-power sources, such as against coal, and tar-sands oil. Obama is fighting ferociously to block any such new regulations or legislation, by means of his proposed ‘trade’ treaties TTIP with Europe, and TPP with Asia. These treaties, if they do become law, will prohibit increases in regulations that reduce CO2 emissions. Only the TPP has been published thus far, and its text makes no exceptions whatsoever to protect the ability of the signatory nations to increase regulations in order to combat climate change (global warming):
That was a comment from Public Citizen when the proposed TPP treaty was recently published.
Like all other regulatory issues, under Obama’s ‘trade’ deals, environmental regulations won’t be able to be increased no matter what the latest available science on the subject might happen to show. And that’ll be true not only in the U.S. but in all of the signatory nations. On global warming, it will be catastrophic: to increase regulations would be blocked over most of the global economy. If the scientific knowledge in ten years time will indicate that a given regulation needs to be increased, then that will just be tough luck, because it won’t be able to happen, under these treaties.
What this fact, of blocking any regulatory increase, means, is that any increase in regulation or legislation to reduce global warming will become practically impossible after the treaty comes into force. This blockage pertains only to the countries such as the U.S., Canada, and the other Pacific Ocean nations, that would be signatories to TPP.
The TPP — like the (still secret) TTIP with Europe — includes a provision, called “Investor State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS), which allows any international corporation to sue any signatory nation to the treaty if the corporation believes that any increase in regulations or legislation, to reduce global warming, or for any other purpose — such as to reduce the lead levels in consumer products, or to accommodate any new scientific finding that a particular drug is far more dangerous than was previously known — has reduced the corporation’s profits. The corporation’s case wouldn’t be judged by any nation’s courts and laws, but instead by a panel of three ‘arbitrators,’ one of whom is appointed by the sued nation, but all of whom would be beholden to international corporations for the given arbitrator’s future economic career success. The arbitrators don’t need to have certification to practice law anywhere, because they aren’t obliged to adhere to any law.
Here is an example of a similar case, in which the U.S. itself is already being sued under an ISDS action by a Canadian corporation, against U.S. taxpayers, an action that’s based upon the ISDS system in the 1994 NAFTA treaty; it concerns the very same proposed Keystone XL Pipeline that Obama had just recently turned down for political reasons during a Presidential election campaign year:
The corporation that’s proposing and that would own the Keystone XL dirty-oil pipeline recently sued the U.S. Government for having turned down the Pipeline. They’re demanding $15 billion, as their projected loss of profit from Obama’s turn-down of it. This wouldn’t even be possible without the NAFTA, which includes a similar ISDS prohibition against increased regulations. TransCanada is using the ISDS in NAFTA to gouge Obama’s U.S. even while Obama is doing everything he can to boil the world.
CBC reported on 6 January 2016, “‘TransCanada has been unjustly deprived of the value of its multibillion-dollar investment by the U.S. administration’s action,’ said the company in a release.The firm says it will be looking to recover $15 billion US in costs and damages as a result of what it says is a breach of obligations under Chapter 11 of NAFTA.”
On January 7th, I headlined “TransCanada’s $15B Lawsuit Against U.S. on Keystone XL Presents Strong Case,” and explained why I believe that their case will likely win: Basically, it’s because both Canada and the U.S. are signatories to NAFTA. The U.S. signed that document, and it allows any member-nation to be sued and penalized by any corporation that can persuade a majority of three arbitrators that a corporation which is based in one signatory nation has suffered a loss in any other signatory nation for an action by that other signatory nation which produces financial losses for the corporation that’s suing. The fine is paid by the taxpayers of the given sued nation to the stockholders of the given suing corporation.
These ‘trade’ deals (which are actually far more than that; they’re about sovereignty — transferring it to international corporations — not merely trade) don’t allow any counter-suit by a defending nation’s government; these wealth-transfers are only one-way: from taxpayers to stockholders. Only stockholders are sovereign in the coming new world order.
Tim Dickenson headlined at Rolling Stone on 3 February 2014, “How the U.S. Exports Global Warming” and he reported that Obama’s old Harvard Law School friend Michael Froman (who had introduced Obama to the Citibank and Goldman top executive and Clinton Administration U.S. Treasurer Robert Rubin and so helped to organize the funding for Obama’s political career) whom Obama had placed in charge of negotiating international-trade treaties, was doing all he could to cripple legislation that would reduce global warming:
In backroom negotiations, Froman has worked to undermine new European Union fuel standards intended to lower the continent’s carbon emissions. The European standards would work, in part, by grading the carbon toxicity of various crude oils. They logically propose placing polluting tar-sands oil in a carbon class all by itself; on its path from a pit mine to the filling station, a gallon of tar-sands gas is responsible for 81 percent more climate pollution than the average gallon of regular. But instead of respecting the EU’s commitment to slow global warming, Froman has worked to force North America’s dirtiest petrol into the tanks of Europe’s Volkswagens, Peugeots and lorries.
His hardball tactics were revealed in obscure written congressional testimony last year. In a question to Froman, Rep. Kevin Brady, an oil-friendly Texas Republican, slammed the European proposal as a “discriminatory, environmentally unjustified” trade barrier. Froman responded, “I share your concerns,” and described his work to “press the Commission to take the views of . . . U.S. refiners under consideration.” He explained how he had turned the standards into a point of contention in negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – a major free-trade pact being hammered out between the U.S. and the EU. Last October, Froman’s team even went before the World Trade Organization to demand that all globally traded petroleum products be treated “without discrimination.”
This is typical for the type of people that now run the U.S. Government: they run it on behalf of the major international corporations.
Under ISDS, all regulations and laws to increase protection of food-safety, car-safety, honesty in the sale of stocks and other investment products, the environment, workers’ rights, etc., is increasingly becoming crippled by the reasonable fear that signatory nations will have, if they increase a regulation or deny a request that wouldn’t have been denied at the time when the treaty was signed — the fear that the nation will be fined billions for having thereby violated the ‘rights’ of that corporation’s owners-stockholders, simply by increasing that regulation.
ISDS is an international anti-regulatory powerhouse, and no previous U.S. President has been trying as hard as Obama is to spread it throughout the world.
Under this regimen, ISDS, which Obama is expanding to a historically unprecedented extent, greatly surpassing even NAFTA, the world is heading toward a situation where the largest international corporations will, in effect, constitute a global government that possesses sovereignty above and beyond that of any nation. Under such a circumstance, not only will the planet become burnt to hell, but, on the way there, democracy will have become a thing of the past; only the billionaires who control large international corporations will have any real influence in political matters. Government for the people will become crippled. It’ll be a global oligarchy or aristocracy of a few mega-billionaires: everybody else will be essentially their slaves, so enormous will be the power of that few.
One can, at the present time, only wonder about how well those masters will, after Obama’s Presidency ends, be paying Obama and his descendants. Some of the world’s future mega-billionaires are likely to be among them — they’ll then be controlling people such as Obama himself is today. Maybe it will be the ultimate, and last, aristocracy, which won’t end until all humans do, the global aristocracy over a burnt-out planet.
Perhaps that entire world will turn out to be Obama’s real Presidential legacy — a world of mass impoverishment, misery, dictatorship, and desperation.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.