A negotiation text leaked by Greenpeace shows that a secret global trade deal could endanger the historic climate change pact agreed to in Paris at the end of 2015. But what is this mysterious trade deal, and what does it mean for climate change? Trade deals are notoriously complex, so here's a breakdown of the key issues to clear it up.

First up, what exactly is the Paris agreement?

It’s a global promise to keep temperature increases on our planet below 1.5 degrees celsius.  Six years previously, the same promise was agreed at 2C, but it was unanimously understood that this wasn’t drastic enough. Beyond 2C, a rise in temperature is predicted to have severe consequences. Every country that signed the Paris agreement at the COP21 summit has agreed to work toward a state of net zero emissions between 2050 and 2100, with a check up on progress every five years. 195 countries agreed to the historic deal, widely viewed as one of the most significant symbols of environmental progress in human history.

So what’s the secret trade deal?

The Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) has already drawn outrage after Wikileaks posted 17 different documents revealing intimate details from its negotiation table earlier this year. The deal is between the EU and 22 other countries worldwide, and seeks to enable multinational corporations to prevent governments from pursuing energy policies that could counter their financial interests.

I don’t understand. What does a trade deal have to do with climate change?

Renewable energy is bad news for companies invested in the profits reaped from fossil fuels. The clause that’s been leaked would make it harder for governments to favor clean energy over fossil fuels.

Sounds dodgy. Tell me more about this ‘clause’.

Those involved in the deal would have to agree to “energy neutrality” between renewable energy and fossil fuels. Essentially, this means that under EU law all member states would have to agree to make laws to protect the market against what is phrased as “anti-competitive conduct.” Wind and solar energy are a direct competitor to big businesses who have ruled the roost in the energy market for decades. So basically, the deal would allow a profit-orientated organization to pressure government into blocking the expansion of clean energy to protect its own interests.

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That’s outrageous! Why isn’t anybody talking about this?

They are. Susan Cohen Jehoram, from Greenpeace, spoke to the Guardian about the deal. “If we want to (reduce global temperature to 1.5C), governments will need a toolbox of measures that can give incentives to cleaner energy,” she said. “Tisa, like the proposed TTIP and Ceta trade agreements, would increase the power of multinationals to prevent governments taking desperately needed measures to decrease CO2 levels.”

At its core, Tisa will hand climate control to private businesses that will not prioritize it. Barry Gardener, Labour’s energy spokesman, clarifies the definitive importance of such a transformation. “Once you have gone through and given power to the commercial interest it is no longer possible to recapture democratic control,” he says. “What we do hear, through leaks and rumours, are terms which clearly prevent the ongoing capacity of governments to govern in the public interest.”

And when it comes to climate change, the public interest is global. The deal wants to deregulate, when regulation is exactly what’s needed to ensure that the world stays on track to meet the ambitious targets agreed upon in Paris. Tisa affects over half of the global economy, and could prove to be a gigantic obstacle to lasting environmental change.  

Fossil fuels contribute to climate change. Fact. Clean, renewable energy is our Get Out Of Jail card. Secret trade deals whispered in invisible boardrooms cannot be allowed to frustrate the efforts to protect the future of the planet.

Read More: France Is the First Country to Ban Plastic Cups, Plates, and Cutlery


Defend the Planet

The Secret Global Trade Deal Aiming to Block Renewable Energy for Everyone

By James Hitchings-Hales