One of the common conservative, climate-denier refrains whenever international climate efforts ramp up is that it would be unthinkably terrible for the United States of America to cede any sort of sovereignty to the (evil globalists at the) United Nations. Nothing, not even literally the fate of the planet, is apparently worth even the slightest acknowledgement that the US made a mess of the climate and should therefore help clean it up.
That was a regular allegation against the Paris Agreement, for example, which the Biden Administration promises to re-enter on January 20. But that’s far from the only thing the U.S. might want to reconsider, in the eyes of those concerned with national sovereignty. Take a look at Trump’s replacement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Because as it turns out, it’s US industry that’s attacking national sovereignty, invoking a clause in the creatively-named United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement to try and prevent Canada from adopting new plastic pollution laws. Sovereignty for me, not for thee. (Naturally!)
This Trump-era agreement allows a country to sue another if its regulations eat into the profits of an existing industry, essentially subjugating domestic policy to corporate interests.
And yet! The sirens of sovereignty remained silent, even as they warned of imaginary UN take-overs.
Compounding the hypocrisy, leading this charge to try and make sure Canada remains a profitable market for oil-based plastics is the Chamber of Commerce, which — if you believe their PR team as credulously as some reporters do — is totally making a turn away from the Right and will be henceforth engaging on climate policy in good faith! (While also engaging in this effort to block climate policy…)
Joining them are all sorts of other lobby groups — big ones like the American Chemistry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, and the Plastics Industry Association, and very specific ones like the Plastic Drum Institute and the Carpet Cushion Council.
They’re all very mad about Canada's proposed ban on single-use plastics, as well as the efforts Canada is considering to label toxic products as such. They're especially concerned Canada's law might inspire other countries to follow suit, which would cost these industries lots of money.
While industry is starting fights at the international level, however, activists are winning them at the local level. Recently, for example, the Black and working class communities of St. James Parish, Louisiana celebrated the pausing of the permitting process for a Formosa plastics plant, Julie Dermansky reported for DeSmog. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it’s going to re-evaluate the wetlands permits for Formosa’s "Sunshine Project," the latest planned addition to Cancer Alley. (And yes, that is its real name.) It needs to address the environmental justice concerns raised by the community. For example, a lawsuit alleges that the Corps violates the National Historic Preservation Act’s rules about the potential for the project to harm cultural resources, like the burial grounds of enslaved people on the site.
Now, it could well be that the Corps does an analysis and grants the permits anyway. But local activists are determined to prevent another polluter from moving into their neighborhood. RISE St. James founder Sharon Lavigne, “told everyone we would stop Formosa and we are. The Sunshine project won’t ever see any sunshine.”
And, in this case, there's reason for hope. Formosa's credit rating was already downgraded earlier this fall — before the Army Corps announced it would re-evaluate the permits.
Hey, it's still 2020. Anything is possible.
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