House members want new administration to prioritize climate change in trade deals

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today led 122 of his House colleagues calling on the incoming Biden administration to expand on its commitment to rejoin the Paris Agreement by working with the governments of Canada and Mexico to include the agreement in the recently-renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“[W]e strongly urge you to take your commitment to rejoin the Paris Agreement one step further by working with Canada and Mexico to amend USMCA Article 24.8 (4) to include the Paris Agreement in the list of MEAs covered by the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement,” the members write President-elect Biden. “[T]he renegotiated NAFTA provides a unique opportunity for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to strengthen North American cooperation and prioritization in addressing environmental harms and ensure all parties are held accountable for promises made under the Paris Agreement.”

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The final renegotiated NAFTA commits the United States, Canada, and Mexico to adopt, implement, and maintain seven multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). Pursuant to Article 24.8.5, a process was established for all signatories to add additional MEAs covered under the agreement.

While international trade contributes to the negative impacts of climate change, U.S. trade deals fail to even mention climate change. The volume of global trade has more than tripled since 1994, when the original NAFTA went into effect. Over that same period, annual global carbon emissions have increased by more than 60 percent. The Trump administration did nothing to reverse these trends in its initial renegotiation of NAFTA.

The letter is signed by Reps. Pascrell, Colin Allred, Jake Auchincloss, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Ami Bera, M.D., Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Brendan F. Boyle, Julia Brownley, Cori Bush, Salud Carbajal, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Ed Case, Sean Casten, Kathy Castor, Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Yvette D. Clarke, Emanuel Cleaver II, Steve Cohen, Gerald E. Connolly, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Peter A. DeFazio, Rosa L. DeLauro, Suzan Delbene, Mark DeSaulnier, Theodore E. Deutch, Debbie Dingell, Lloyd Doggett, Michael F. Doyle, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Ruben Gallego, Jimmy Gomez, Josh Gottheimer, Raul Grijalva, Alcee L. Hastings, Jahana Hayes, Brian Higgins, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Steven Horsford, Jared Huffman, Sara Jacobs, Pramila Jayapal, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Mondaire Jones, Kaialiʻi Kahele, Marcy Kaptur, William R. Keating, Ro Khanna, Daniel T. Kildee, Derek Kilmer, Andy Kim, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Conor Lamb, John Larson, Brenda L. Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Andy Levin, Ted Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Stephen F. Lynch, Tom Malinowski, Betty McCollum, A. Donald McEachin, James P. McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Joseph D. Morelle, Grace Napolitano, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Frank Pallone, Jr., Jimmy Panetta, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, David E. Price, Mike Quigley, Jamie Raskin, Lucille Roybal-Allard, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Bobby L. Rush, Tim Ryan, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Linda T. Sanchez, John P. Sarbanes, Janice D. Schakowsky, Bradley S. Schneider, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Terri Sewell, Brad Sherman, Mikie Sherrill, Albio Sires, Adam Smith, Abigail D. Spanberger, Jackie Speier, Marilyn Strickland, Thomas R. Suozzi, Mike Thompson, Bennie G. Thompson, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Paul Tonko, Ritchie Torres, Lori Trahan, David Trone, Juan Vargas, Nydia Velázquez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Peter Welch, Susan Wild, Nikema Williams, and John Yarmuth.

The text of the members’ letter to President-elect Biden is provided below.

 

January 19, 2021

Dear President-elect Biden:

Congratulations on your well fought victory. We look forward to working with you and your incoming administration. We commend you for your public commitments to rejoin the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Addressing the climate crisis is one of the most pressing challenges for our country and the world. Failing to act not only threatens the health of our natural resources, but our national security and long-term economic growth. Multilateral environmental agreements (“MEAs”) play an important role in protecting our environment for future generations. Therefore, we strongly urge you to take your commitment to rejoin the Paris Agreement one step further by working with Canada and Mexico to amend USMCA Article 24.8 (4) to include the Paris Agreement in the list of MEAs covered by the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”).

As you know, on December 12, 2015, the international community reached a landmark global climate agreement to combat climate change. This agreement was intended to marshal the international community behind intensifying investments needed to keep a global temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels) and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This agreement is a strong global response to the threat of climate change which acknowledges that all:

“Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”[i]

By announcing the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, Donald Trump ignored the science and reality of climate change’s impacts. House Democrats in the 116th Congress attempted to reassert America’s commitment to the international community by passing H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act.[ii]

While there is little question that international trade contributes to the negative impacts of climate change, our trade agreements fail to even mention climate change, much less meaningfully and adequately address climate change contributors, like illegal deforestation and air pollution. The volume of global trade has more than tripled since 1994, when the original NAFTA went into effect. Over that same time period, annual global carbon emissions have increased by more than 60 percent. The Trump administration did nothing to reverse these trends in its initial renegotiation of NAFTA.

The final renegotiated NAFTA commits the United States, Canada, and Mexico to adopt, implement, and maintain seven MEAs.[iii] Pursuant to Article 24.8.5, a process was established for all signatories to add additional MEAs covered under the agreement.[iv] That list should be amended to include the Paris Agreement. Such an action would help restore the United States’ role as a leader in addressing the climate crisis and demonstrate how trade agreements can be utilized to advance climate goals. Further, the renegotiated NAFTA provides a unique opportunity for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to strengthen North American cooperation and prioritization in addressing environmental harms and ensure all parties are held accountable for promises made under the Paris Agreement.

Our constituents and communities feel the negative impacts of our changing climate. Sea levels are rising at alarming rates.[v] Natural disasters are becoming more frequent.[vi] Extreme weather events are disrupting lives, causing economic hardship, and increasing the financial pressure for individuals and all levels of government.[vii] To address these existential threats to humanity, we must use all tools at our disposal.

Binding climate standards that protect the environment and our communities are one such tool needed in our trade agreements. Including enforceable environmental standards in our trade agreements creates more equitable competition between the United States and our trading partners. Establishing binding climate standards in agreements between our trading partners is needed to create a deterrence for companies that are not conscious of their social and environmental impact from being incentivized to using our trade agreements to take their manufacturing elsewhere.

Thank you very much for your time and attention to our request to engage our North American allies on our common agenda of addressing climate change through enforceable trade agreements. Including the Paris Agreement in the list of MEAs covered by the renegotiated NAFTA is an opportunity for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to show global leadership in collectively tackling the climate crisis. We are eager to work with you and the incoming administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the climate crisis with the absolute urgency it demands.

Sincerely,

 

 

[i] https://unfccc.int/files/meetings/paris_nov_2015/application/pdf/paris_agreement_english_.pdf

[ii] https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/9

[iii] https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/agreements/FTA/USMCA/Text/24-Environment.pdf

[iv] Ibid

[v] https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level

[vi] https://www.edf.org/climate/climate-change-and-extreme-weather

[vii] https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2019/11/21/477190/climate-change-threatens-stability-financial-system/