…writes a short account of the activities surrounding current shale gas exploration in Fermanagh, and the strong local resistance.
Since Australian company Tamboran moved their equipment onto a piece of land outside the village of Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh, there has been staunch local opposition. Tamboran are planning to take rock samples to test the viability of shale gas in the area. They have said there will be no fracking as part of this test phase – but this is the first step towards fracking. Furthermore, this is an all-island issue: water knows no borders, and the Irish Petroleum Affairs Division has said they will accept the results of these tests as part of Tamboran’s work programme under its Irish options licence. The test site is only a few kilometres from the border.
Meadhbh discusses the harm a new EU-US Free Trade agreement could cause if it comes into effect.
The EU and the US are currently negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).This trade deal is set to be the biggest bilateral free trade agreement in history, and will act as a template for future global trade agreements. The key focus of the TTIP – “harmonising regulations” – could seriously dilute hard-fought regulations that provide social and environmental protection, reduce the ability of governments to implement similar regulations in the future, and hand over more power to corporates.
Now, many of us tend to switch off when we see phrases like “investment partnership” and “harmonising regulations”. Perhaps we’re thinking “what has this got to do with us? Let’s leave it to the experts; they know what they’re doing”. However, when we break down the technical lingo, it is clear that this trade agreement will have huge consequences for all levels of society and will set a worrying precedent. The damage it could cause to our planet and its inhabitants greatly outweighs the modest potential for economic gain.
“Secrecy enables corruption. So also does an inattentive public enable corruption” (Robert David Steele)
The negotiations surrounding the TTIP have been conducted at high governmental levels in asecret manner, with access to talks dominated largely by big business and industry. The interests of these groups are generally not in line with the everyday person, so why are they being given access to key decision makers while the broader public is left out in the cold? It’s time we level the playing field and demand truth and transparency.
Through an examination of global trade relations over the past 250 years it becomes evident that industrialised countries have become rich often at the expense of developing countries; it is a system which appears to only beneﬁt rich countries. There is a very probable risk that the TTIP will serve to reinforce this unjust system.
Even within rich countries, the TTIP could establish undemocratic procedures resulting in excessive corporate power. There are clauses included that would make it necessary to examine at a very early stage of any legislative procedure whether the new law being proposed will have a “material” impact on trade relations. This would allow large and powerful EU and US companies to drastically expand lobbying activities, because they would constantly have to be consulted, giving them substantial inﬂuence.
Causes for Concern
Investor State Dispute Settlement clause (ISDS): Simply put, if this measure is included in the agreement it would allow foreign investors to sue their host country if their investment potential and profits are affected due to decisions taken by that government. There are hundreds of existing cases where countries have been sued millions for introducing socially and environmentally protective legislation. For example, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which includes an ISDS clause, a US energy company is suing the Canadian government over its moratorium on fracking in Quebec. The TTIP ISDS clause will reinforce this power of corporations to sue, so if passed we’re set to see a large increase in cases. Not only does this place huge burdens on states’ public funds, particularly damaging for poorer countries, it also directly infringes on a states’ responsibility to implement adequate protection for its citizens and environment.
Precautionary principle: in the EU the precautionary principle is enshrined in law stating that a product or process must pose no risk to environmental, social, or animal welfare before it can be approved for retail. In contrast, the US operates in the opposite way whereby a product or process must be proven to be hazardous before it can be removed from the market. This means that hazardous products can be sold until they are irrefutably proven to be harmful. Through the TTIP, the US are pushing to remove this precautionary principle to allowing investors greater ease of access to markets with products and processes that are possibly damaging to the health of people and the planet.
Climate justice:the level of complacency evident in the TTIP negotiations with regard to climate justice is extremely worrying. The Fifth report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that 80% of existing fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground, and that renewable energy must be scaled up to avoid catastrophic climate change. However, in spite of this call for commitment, the TTIP snarls in the face of making the necessary global commitments. An examination of the European Commission’s official Impact Assessment analysing different scenarios for EU-US trade, predicts that the most ambitious TTIP scenario (maximum regulatory dilution) would serve to increase greenhouse gas emissions by 11.8 million tonnes in just 10 years. TTIP also seeks to make it easier to export gas and crude oil from the US which would result in more fracking for fossil fuels.
We can beat the TTIP
It is possible to beat the TTIP! Back in the 1990s, due to huge public outcry, the international investment agreement, MAI, was dropped. Let’s be part of a movement that will apply the same pressure so that the TTIP, and other damaging free trade agreements, are dropped. Together we can transition to a sustainable, happy and truly democratic society.
There has been a growing movement of concern and public outcry about the TTIP agreement in the EU and US. A number of Irish civil society organisations working for the causes of social and environmental justice, have come together to share information and to stimulate greater public awareness regarding these negotiations. We marked the beginning of this road to success with a Day of Action on Saturday 12th July in parallel with the World Development Movement’s day of actions throughout the UK. The day was a huge success and drew much needed attention to the issue. More actions and awareness building are coming up so keep an eye out!
On Thursday 15th of May, Young Friends of the Earth hosted a Dublin region European Parliament election husting, as part of our national Politics for People campaign.
We were delighted to welcome 5 of our Dublin candidates standing for the European elections on Friday 23rd of May: Brid Smith, People Before Profit Alliance; Eamon Ryan, Green Party; Paul Murphy, Socialist Party; Damon Matthew Wise, Fís Nua; Emer Costello, Labour Party.
DIT held their first Green Week last week and Young Friends of the Earth Ireland were participating in the festivities. The Week was designed as a series of roadshows that visited each of the main campus locations. YFoE contributed by doing some chalk and green graffiti demonstrations, as well as meeting with students to talk about the many ways they could get involved in grassroots environmental and climate justice action.
Young people in Ireland and throughout Europe are using their voice and their power by actively engaging with politicians in the lead up to the European Parliament elections on the 23rd May. Collectively we are asking candidates running for election, to represent the voice of the people and make commitments to protect our interests at the EU level. Young FoE are excited to be involved in this Europe-wide Politics for People campaign run by ALTER-EU (the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in the European Union). We are seizing this opportunity to place the Earth and the protection of her natural resources centre stage at the European Parliament.
Students across the globe are calling for their University boards to divest from the fossil fuel industry. As the effects of climate change become more apparent young people are organizing and mobilizing to meet the challenge head on. Following the examples set by campuses across Canada and the US, European students are now adapting divestment campaign models to launch campaigns on their own campuses, and with support from former President Mary Robinson the question at hand is – are Irish students ready to join the global divestment campaign?
December and January have certainly been the wettest, windiest most volatile months I can remember. Homes have been destroyed, business decimated and communities devastated. With the financial cost of the past two months exceed 100 million as our nation continues to struggle with relentless storms and nationwide flooding I ask if anyone is really thinking about Why This Is Happening?
As youth we are vibrant. As activists we are angry. As youth activists we can be frustrated and even at times be utterly deflated. The system in which we exist is often our biggest obstacle when attempting to challenge norms and promote new ways of thinking.
Do we tackle this obstacle head on? Yes. Are we always successful? No. But sometimes we are – even if not in the way we had hoped.
COP 19 was the perfect example of how hope can turn to despair. But with an exciting twist at the end!