Event: Midwest Unrest, August 25, Washington D.C.

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On August 25th, young people and allies from across the Midwest will join together in Washington, DC for Midwest Unrest, an action to demand an immediate stop to the Enbridge corporation’s illegal Alberta Clipper tar sands scandal in Minnesota. Secretary of State John Kerry has the power to stop Enbridge from continuing to sneak tar sands oil through our backyard — we are coming to his front door to make sure he knows where we stand.

Midwest Unrest is a youth-led call to escalate the fight to save our climate. Some participants will risk arrest. Group transportation will be provided from MN. We encourage people of all ages to answer the young generation’s call to action with legal protest or by joining in non-violent civil disobedience. Click for more information and to RSVP.

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Enbridge’s illegal pipeline scheme swaps tar sands oil from the Alberta Clipper pipeline to an alternate pipeline just at the Canada – US border. This bypasses the required environmental review on the Alberta Clipper flow increase so the tar sands can start flowing at capacities similar to Keystone XL. This is wrong and it’s up to us to do something about it.

Over the last two years we’ve collected petitions, visited senators’ offices, made thousands of calls to the President, and this past June 5,000 people marched against climate-killing tar sands oil in St. Paul. We’ve mobilized and engaged within the process and it’s built a beautiful and powerful movement. But Secretary Kerry, who has the power to stop the ongoing, illegal flow of dangerous tar sands oil through northern Minnesota with the stroke of a pen, hasn’t noticed. That’s why we need to escalate.

Can you stand with us in DC? RSVP today and reserve a spot on a group bus or van to DC.

In early September, our ongoing lawsuit against the Alberta Clipper pipeline will reach federal court in Minneapolis. It’s up to us to ensure that Secretary Kerry stands on our side, reverses the State Department’s tacit approval of Enbridge’s illegal scheme, and stops the Alberta Clipper. While we await a decision from the administration on Keystone XL, it is unacceptable for the State Department to turn a blind eye and allow this tar sands expansion across the border via this scheme.

We call on Secretary Kerry to prioritize the voices of young people, indigenous communities, and communities most impacted across the Midwest to join us on the right side of history.

–IFG

P.S. If you can’t make it to D.C., you can take action in Minnesota on August 25th. Legal public actions will take place in McGregor and in the Twin Cities, led by indigenous people, youth and our allies at Honor the Earth fighting the Enbridge pipeline invasion.

CONTACT

If you have any questions about digital support, you can email Matt Maiorana (mattATpriceofoil.org). If you have questions about the action more broadly, email Kendall Mackey (kendallATenergyactioncoalition.org).

WTO Orders Rollback of US Consumer Law, Contrary to Obama Claims

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by Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

WTO Orders U.S. to Gut U.S. Consumer Country-of-Origin Meat Labeling Policy, Further Complicating Obama Fast Track Push by Spotlighting How Trade Pacts Can Undermine U.S. Consumer, Environmental Policies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today’s final ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body against popular U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) policy spotlights how trade agreements can undermine domestic public interest policies, Public Citizen said today. The WTO decision is likely to further fuel opposition to Fast Track authority for controversial “trade” pacts that would expose U.S. consumer and environmental protections to more such challenges. (A list of some of the past public interest policies undermined by trade pacts is below.)

COOL requires labeling of pork and beef sold in the United States to inform consumers the country in which the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

“The president says ‘we’re making stuff up,’ about trade deals undermining our consumer and environmental policies but today, we have the latest WTO ruling against a popular U.S. consumer policy. Last week, Canadian officials announced that our financial regulations violate trade rules, and earlier this year, the Obama administration, in response to another trade agreement ruling, opened all U.S. roads to Mexico-domiciled trucks that threaten highway safety and the environment, “said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

In a May 1, 2015, letter, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack informed Congress that it will need to repeal the COOL law or else change it if the final WTO ruling were to go against the United States. In contrast, in his recent speech at Nike, President Barack Obama said, “Critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation – food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

“Today’s WTO ruling, which effectively orders the U.S. government to stop providing consumers basic information about where their food comes from, offers a clear example of why so many Americans and members of Congress oppose the Fast Tracking of more so-called ‘trade’ pacts that threaten commonsense consumer safeguards,” said Wallach. “The corporations lobbying to Fast Track the TPP must be groaning right now, as this ruling against a popular consumer protection in the name of ‘free trade’ spotlights exactly why there is unprecedented opposition to more of these deals.”

Today’s decision on the final U.S. appeal of a 2012 initial ruling against the COOL policy paves the way for Canada and Mexico, which challenged COOL at the WTO, to impose indefinite trade sanctions against the United States unless or until it weakens or eliminates COOL, which is supported by nine in 10 Americans. Last year, consumer groups wrote to the administration requesting it use the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations as leverage to demand that Canada and Mexico drop the case instead of rolling back the policy. But they received no response.

Today, the WTO Appellate Body upheld a 2014 compliance panel ruling, which said that changes made in May 2013 to the original U.S. COOL policy, in an effort to make it comply with a 2012 WTO ruling against the law, were not acceptable. The Appellate Body decided that the modified U.S. COOL policy still constitutes a “technical barrier to trade.” It  decided that the strengthened COOL policy afforded less favorable treatment to cattle and hog imports from Canada and Mexico, despite a 53 percent increase in U.S. imports of cattle from Canada under the modified policy. The Appellate Body upheld the earlier panel ruling that the alleged difference in treatment did not “stem exclusively from legitimate regulatory distinctions.”

Today’s ruling is not subject to further appeal. The decision initiates a WTO process to determine the level of trade sanctions that Canada and Mexico are authorized to impose on the United States as retaliation for COOL.

Today’s ruling follows a string of recent WTO rulings against popular U.S. consumer and environmental policies. In May 2012, the WTO ruled against voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna labelsthat, by allowing consumers to choose to buy tuna caught without dolphin-killing fishing practices, have helped to dramatically reduce dolphin deaths.

Changes made last year to comply with the WTO’s decision are now being challenged in WTO compliance proceedings. This comes after the U.S. revoked a long-standing ban on tuna caught using dolphin-deadly nets following an earlier WTO ruling. In January 2015, the Obama administration announced it would allow Mexico-domiciled long haul trucks on all U.S. highways after losing a North American Free Trade Agreement challenge and being threatened with sanctions on more than two billion in U.S. trade flows. Consumer groups warn that the trucks pose significant safety threats, while environmental groups warn that they do not meet U.S. emissions standards.

In response to previous WTO rulings, the United States has rolled back U.S. Clean Air Act regulations on gasoline cleanliness standards successfully challenged by Venezuela and Mexico; Endangered Species Act rules relating to shrimping techniques that kill sea turtles after a successful challenge by Malaysia and other nations; and altered auto fuel efficiency (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards that were successfully challenged by the European Union.

The Fast Tracked legislation that implemented the WTO enacted a patent extension sought by pharmaceutical interests that consumer groups had successfully defeated for decades. The Uruguay Round Agreements Act amended the U.S. patent law to provide a 20-year monopoly – replacing the 17-year term in U.S. law and increasing medicine prices by billions by extending the period during which generic competition would be prohibited. The bill also watered down the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act both of which  required only poultry and meat that actually met U.S. safety and inspection standards could be imported and sold here and allowed imports that meet “equivalent” standards with foreign nations certify their own plants for export.

Background
The COOL policy was created when Congress enacted mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat – supported by 92 percent of the U.S. public in a recent poll – in the 2008 farm bill. This occurred after 50 years of U.S. government experimentation with voluntary labeling and efforts by U.S. consumer groups to institute a mandatory program.

In their successful challenge of COOL at the WTO, Canada and Mexico claimed that the program violated WTO limits on what sorts of product-related “technical regulations” signatory countries are permitted to enact. The initial WTO ruling was issued in November 2011. Canada and Mexico demanded that the United States drop its mandatory labels in favor of a return to a voluntary program or standards set by an international food standards body in which numerous international food companies play a central role. Neither option would offer U.S. consumers the same level of information as the current labels. The United States appealed.

In a June 2012 ruling against COOL, the WTO Appellate Body sided with Mexico and Canada. The U.S. government responded to the final WTO ruling by altering the policy in a way that fixed the problems identified by the WTO tribunal. However, instead of watering down the popular program as Mexico and Canada sought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture responded with a rule change in May 2013 that strengthened the labeling regime. The new policy provided more country-of-origin information to consumers, which satisfied the issues raised in the WTO’s ruling. However, Mexico and Canada then challenged the new U.S. policy. With today’s ruling, the WTO has announced its support for the Mexican and Canadian contention that the U.S. law is still not consistent with the WTO rules.

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Lori Wallach
Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

++ Check out our blog:  www.EyesOnTrade.org ++

Global Trade Watch’s website is: www.tradewatch.org

Join us on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/GlobalTradeWatch

IFG Board News: Barlow to Participate in Plenary Discussion with German Chancellor on CETA & Globalization

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Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be participating in a panel discussion with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on April 20.

The panel will be part of a G7 Civil Society Dialogue Forum being hosted by the German NGO Forum on Environment & Development, VENRO (the Association of German Development and Humanitarian Aid NGOs) and the German G7 presidency.

During the panel, Chancellor Merkel will present her G7 presidency priorities and policies. In the discussion to follow, Barlow will raise concerns about globalization, deregulation and ‘free trade’ agreements like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The other panelists will be Dr. Agnes Abuom, the moderator of the World Council of Churches, Dr. Bernd Bornhorst, the chairperson of VENRO, and Sebastian Schönauer, who is with the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development.

The panel will take place just prior to the G7 summit on June 7-8 at Schloss Elmau, which is located about 100 kilometres south of Munich.

Barlow will also be the main speaker on April 22 at the Green Lecture on the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and social movements.

Further reading
German chancellor says there are still a few matters in CETA “that must be clarified” (February 2015 campaign blog)
Canada-EU (CETA) (campaign webpage)

Photo: Maude Barlow, Angela Merkel

IFG Board News: This World Water Day, a Recovery Plan Is More Important Than Ever

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Twenty-two years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 to be World Water Day. In a world is facing a severe and growing water crisis without a roadmap, this day is more important than ever.

Our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter “a new geologic age”— a “planetary transformation” akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. This is according to 500 renowned scientists brought together in Bonn at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 2013. A majority of the world’s population lives within 30 miles of water sources that are badly impaired or running out, the scientists said.

The water crisis is also our greatest security threat. This is according to 900 global experts asked to assess the world’s biggest global risks in advance of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. Another global study warns that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 per cent. Lack of access to clean water is already by far the greatest killer of children.

So how are world leaders and global institutions dealing with this threat? Very badly and with no plan. This is because the water crisis has been misdiagnosed.

While recognized as real, the water crisis is usually seen as a symptom of climate change, itself caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Droughts are almost always reported as the result of climate change. While no doubt greenhouse gas emission-driven climate change does have an important and negative impact on watersheds, warming temperatures and speeding up evaporation, there is another story that needs to be told.

Massive water diversion for flood irrigation and the over-exploitation of groundwater has left large areas of the world without water. The destruction of the Aral Sea and Lake Chad — once the fourth and sixth largest lakes in the world respectively — was not caused by climate change. It was a result of relentless extraction for commodity exports.

The drought crisis in California is not climate change per se, but the massive engineering of the state’s water supplies to provide for a handful of powerful farmers. A huge amount of the state’s water is exported as “virtual water” embedded in export commodities. The Ogallala Aquifer is not being depleted by climate change, but from unremitting extraction, mostly for corn ethanol.

Removing water from water-retentive landscapes leaves behind parched lands and desertification, another cause of the water crisis. Removing vegetation from water-retentive landscapes changes the water patterns forever. The current crisis in Brazil — once a water rich country — is largely due to the destruction of the rainforest. Take down the forests and the hydrologic cycle is negatively affected.

Because the water crisis is misdiagnosed, we do not have the right solutions to solve the crisis. World leaders, elected officials and international institutions wrap the water crisis in with their research and deliberations on climate change. If water is mentioned at all, it is as one more victim of climate change, almost always solely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. The fact that destroying water-retentive landscapes is in and of itself a major cause of climate change is not part of the analysis or discussion in climate change circles.

As a consequence, flawed as it is, there is a very serious process to deal with climate change, including an annual climate summit every December and multiple preparatory meetings in between. But there is no corresponding process to deal with the global water crisis.

The UN General Assembly has not specifically included water in its agenda. The 1992 Rio Earth Summit targeted water, climate change, biodiversity and desertification for action; all but water have since been addressed with a convention and a plan. There is no coordinated response to the world’s growing water crisis, even as it threatens life on earth, either inside the United Nations or among nations. Any attempt at answers is local, sporadic and underfunded.

Water must be addressed as an issue in and of itself. There is an urgent need to create a global water recovery plan for water.

Key components would include:
• watershed protection
• conservation and restoration
• national and community programs to replenish water-retentive landscapes
• watershed sharing and governance
• models of food and energy production that do not harm water
• the prevention of eutrophication
• consideration of the impact on water of trade agreements
• strong local, national and international commitment to put water protection at the heart of all laws and policies.

The notion that water can become a negotiating tool for cooperation and peace rather than the cause of conflict and war must be explored and the path to water justice must be a central tenet of this plan.

Five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a historic resolution. It recognized water and sanitation as fundamental human rights. It is urgent that the United Nations and world leaders now take the next step toward a water-secure future. They need to commit to creating a global water recovery plan for water that has its own convention, plan of action and the resources needed to meet the greatest threat of our time.

Maude Barlow is a Canadian who has been a leader in the fight for the human right to water. She served as Senior Advisor on Water to the UN General Assembly. Her latest book is Blue Future, Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever.

Follow Maude Barlow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MaudeBarlow

What’s Our Plan? A Teach-In on Fossil Fuel Infrastructure in Minnesota, March 21, 2015

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IFG is invited by indigenous and interfaith groups on the frontline in Minnesota fighting against proposed expansions of fossil fuels infrastructure that would violate treaties and territory of Native Americans, while endangering the Headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River.
Saturday, March 21 at 9:00am in CDT
First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, 3400 Dupont Ave S, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408
Tickets Available: www.eventjoy.com

Minnesota is being besieged with new fossil fuel infrastructure, and we are not prepared. We are becoming a superhighway for oil that we neither produce or consume, yet we assume all the risk. Meanwhile, our water and sewer mains are crumbling. Let’s come together and find common spiritual ground from which to address this public policy crisis and protect ourselves and the earth.

Unlike most teach-ins, “What’s Our Plan” will be interactive and solution-focused, drawing on the diverse assets of the group to create plans for action. Participants will leave not only better informed, but better equipped, connected to allies, and ready to take next steps.

9:00am – 12:00pm Teach-In
Free of charge and open to the public. Speakers include Winona LaDuke, Rep. Frank Hornstein, Victor Menotti, and attorney Paul Blackburn. Regional leaders in movements against bomb trains, pipelines, and frac-sand mines will propose cross-cutting strategies.

12:00pm – 2:00pm Lunch and Breakouts
The Sioux Chef will provide a buffet-style lunch for $10 and the group will choose 3 of the cross-cutting strategies to focus on in breakout sessions that map assets and create action plans.

The issues: Each week, more than 50 trains full of highly volatile Bakken crude oil cross through our cities and towns, and derailments are common and devastating. Multiple new oil pipeline proposals are under review, serving both the Bakken oil boom in ND and the Alberta Tar Sands, and Enbridge Energy is pushing them aggressively. These pipelines would pass through the pristine wilderness of Northern MN, where the inevitable spills would desecrate our abundant natural resources and violate the treaty-protected rights of indigenous people. New silica sand mines, which export to hydraulic fracturing sites elsewhere, are inundating southeastern MN and western WI, yet are subject to no statewide regulation whatsoever.

Co-sponsored by Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, MN350, and the International Forum on Globalization