The most powerful man on the planet, and his next-door neighbor have given numerous speeches talking about the need for environmental policies and practices. However, neither act on those ideas.
Fist-pumping American President Barack Obama has pounded many a fist as he talks about strong international environmental protections.
After President Obama won his latest term in office, the first words out of his mouth to his new prospective head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were to focus on climate change.
Previously, the American leader was led away from climate change, as his advisors told him it would harm his government’s relationship with the powerful companies and political supporters involved in the coal sector.
President Obama has talked about the need to develop alternative fuels and to better manage America’s natural resources.
However, if recent media reports are right, President Obama is full of hot air, as he’s willing to risk his country’s natural resources for the sake of a trade agreement.
Recently, the New York Times and other media have reported how the Obama administration has backed off its environmental policies, to negotiate a trade agreement with other world leaders, which see those environmental policies as a roadblock instead of sound and good judgement.
Talks began about three years ago over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be the biggest trade agreement ever negotiated between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. It was supposed to be completed by the end of last year, however, negotiations have been rough, especially over the environmental chapter of the trade deal.
The environmental chapter – which is completely voluntary and does not include penalties for violations – discusses environmental issues including overfishing, trade of wood products, illegal logging and wildlife crime.
According to The New York Times, through information they received through Wikileaks, Obama’s negotiations team is backing down on its natural resources policies to finalize the agreements – because we all know trade is more important than protecting the environment.
Just ask Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who has been talking about his environmental practices for years, while his government’s own policies have actually eroded the environment.
According to a report released late last year, Canada has failed to meet its own commitments, deadlines and obligations to protect the nation’s wildlife and natural spaces.
The report damns Canada’s federal government for its “persistent gap between what the government commits to do and what it is achieving,” and said the environmental ministry has missed key deadlines to protect migratory birds, failed to protect wildlife habitats and has done nowhere near enough to protect species at risk. The report also claims that Parks Canada, which is the federal government’s own agency that manages nationally protected parks, is struggling to protect those ecosystems.
Ironically, Canada’s failed track record on the environment is harming its relationships with its trading partners, while America’s federal government is attempting to lessen its green policies to build relationships with trading partners.
According to the report, Canada is seen as a steward of globally significant resources, and its success internationally depends on leadership in meeting international expectations for environmental protection.
Meanwhile, if the Americans push through this Pacific trade agreement, it will roll back the progress previous American governments have made in protecting their country’s natural resources, their oceans, fish, wildlife and forests.
Canada is one of the countries within the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which the Obama administration is trying to finalize.
No doubt, Canada has no problem with the American’s weakened stance on the environment, based on its poor environmental management of its own natural resources.
The flow of money through trade agreements is substantial, but no country should sacrifice its own natural resources for any amount of dollars.
Regardless of how many jobs are claimed to be created, and how high the dollar value is on the amount of trade created between member countries, the amount of harm to our natural resources is priceless.
And those environmental protections given up during trade negotiations do come back to harm the economy.
Just ask Canadians about their fishing industry off the east coast.
The cod fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, collapsed in 1992 due to overfishing, tossing 40,000 people out of work. Over 21-years later, the fishery has still not recovered.
So when the leader of the free world and his next-door neighbor ignore the environment under the guise of some trade agreement, remind them that trade isn’t just about money – its about managing the natural resources which are being traded.