Green groups come out against NAFTA 2.0

Source: By Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2019

Major environmental groups today announced their opposition to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), decrying its lack of action on climate change and potential to worsen emissions.

Green groups have been largely silent since the deal was announced earlier this week but had signaled earlier that the expected lack of specific provisions to address climate change would call for USMCA’s defeat.

Today advocates highlighted addressing climate change and additional recommendations they had previously made to Democrats that went unheeded.

Three of those groups, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and League of Conservation Voters, were among the nine groups that denounced the pact.

“This final deal poses very real threats to our climate and communities and ignores nearly all of the fundamental environmental fixes consistently outlined by the environmental community,” the groups wrote to lawmakers, urging a “no” vote when the measure comes up in the House.

“The deal does not even mention climate change, fails to adequately address toxic pollution, includes weak environmental standards and an even weaker enforcement mechanism, supports fossil fuels, and allows oil and gas corporations to challenge climate and environmental protections,” they wrote.

Also signing the letter were Earthjustice, Food & Water Action, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oil Change International and the Sunrise Movement.

The groups framed the upcoming debate as a legacy vote, and LCV warned that it may consider the USMCA vote in its annual environmental scorecard.

Despite the opposition of the environmental community, the deal is expected to pass with overwhelming bipartisan support. The AFL-CIO is among the labor groups supporting USMCA, which is also widely backed by business groups.

House Democrats negotiated for the past year with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the measure, which incorporates seven multilateral environmental agreements and more authorities and resources for enforcement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this week said Democrats are “very pleased” with the environmental provisions of the bill, which she called “substantially better” than the North American Free Trade Agreement, which USMCA will replace.

She also noted that the Trump administration refused to allow climate change to enter the negotiations.

“The administration wouldn’t let us talk about climate. Can you imagine that?” she asked during an event Tuesday. “But we have talked about the environment in a very strong way.”

There is one concession won by Democrats that could pave the way for a significant reduction of emissions from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are scheduled to be phased out under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The Trump administration had sought to bar the Montreal Protocol’s inclusion in USMCA but yielded to Democrats during talks.

Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) said yesterday he had received assurances that the trade pact would accommodate bipartisan legislation that would give EPA authority to crack down on HFCs, a powerful heat-trapping class of chemicals used in refrigeration (E&E Daily, Dec. 13).