Satisfying Consumption: Trade and the Environment

Our 2015 Conference addressed public interest law from a corporate perspective with a specific focus upon the role of business and trade in tackling environmental issues.

Conference Summary

The day began with a closely-argued panel session assessing the overall merits and risks of TTIP for the environment and the public interest. While Sam Lowe (Friends of the Earth) warned of a race to the bottom in the regulation of food and other products, Emanuel Adam (BritishAmerican Business) noted the economic rationale and inclusion of a sustainability chapter in the draft agreement. For his part, Alan Bates (Monckton Chambers) stressed continuities with GATT and the existing WTO regime. Next, Sam Fowles (Queen Mary University of London) took to the stage to detail the more insidious dangers of Investor-State Dispute Settlements:  a multiform ‘regulatory chill’ that would militate in favour of big business and governments hoping to push through, or retain, environmentally-suspect measures.

Ruth Bergan (Trade Justice Movement) and Tom Burke CBE (E3G) evidenced the wide-ranging impact of TTIP with presentations on ‘Third Countries’ (that is, non-signatories), and Climate Change, respectively. Asking why the mooted agreement made no clear provision to protect developing countries, Ms. Bergan set out how these ‘ghosts at the Feast’ will be detrimentally affected in myriad ways, including use of TTIP as a template in future trade agreements around the world. While dismissing the utility of Carbons Trading in tackling climate change, Tom Burke explained why TTIP would be an unmitigated disaster for emissions targets. He stressed that above all TTIP would throw up obstacles for countries seeking to pass domestic environmental legislation.

The day’s keynote speech was delivered by esteemed academic Professor Nicolas de Sadeleer, Jean Monnet Chairholder at the Academie de Louvain in Belgium, and author of works such as EU Environmental Law and the Internal Market and Environmental Principles: From Political Slogans to Legal Rules. Establishing early on how environmental protection came to be placed on equal footing with the internal market as a core EU objective, Professor de Sadeleer went on to reveal the disconnect between apparent parity and practice. The keynote spoke of the challenges facing Environmental Policy in Europe, observing, inter alia, the uneasy relationship between Competition Law and Environmental Law, the reluctance of the European Commission to bring Members to ECJ for failing to implement Environmental Directives, and the fact that environmental legislation may easily fall within the ambit of the principle of free movement of goods.

The second half of the Conference opened with Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, setting out the political challenge of reconciling an impetus to increase trade with the need to protect the environment. Kindly taking time from the campaign trail, she spoke against conceiving of the environment in economic terms, and reminded those present that ‘there will be no business on a dead planet.’ There followed a raft of talks and panels on specific markets and trade-related environmental concerns. Revealing the realities of the global illegal trade in wildlife, Shruti Suresh (the Environmental Investigations Agency) detailed the workings of the international CITES regime (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and the often corrupt and contradictory approach of the international community on this issue.

The evening panel on tackling Deforestation provided a different perspective of the role of business in environmental issues. Clotilde Henriot and Joseph Weyns (ClientEarth) set out the functioning of Voluntary Partnership Agreements, illustrating that different trade model agreements exist, not all of which are bad news for environmental and social standards. Equally constructive and hopeful, Leonie Lawrence (Global Canopy Programme) outlined how the Forest 500 project is working directly with corporations to eliminate deforestation from global supply chains. A concluding panel on waste management brought into focus the diverse actors working to bring about a circular economy, and the tools at their disposal. Piotr Barczak (European Environmental Bureau) provided an insider’s perspective of the action being taken by the EU to decouple economic growth from resources use, focusing chiefly on excessive packaging. Looking at electronic waste in Africa, which is set to outstrip European volume this year, Professor Margaret Bates (University of Kent) argued that bans were less effective than helping to build infrastructure for waste disposal. Mariel Vilella tackled consumer behaviour itself, underlining how it is possible to implement a ‘Zero-Waste’ philosophy across Europe with the techniques and laws we currently possess, following the example of a growing number of municipalities across the continent.

‘Satisfying Consumption: Trade and the Environment’ was a great success, sparking lively debate and, we hope, forging new constructive relationships in the area of environmental study and law.

To end the day there was opportunity for further discussion at a drinks reception for speakers and attendees.

Our Thanks

We wish to thank the speakers who gave up their time to make the 2015 Conference such a success.

We should also like to thank the following organisations who offered financial assistance:

City University London
Environmental Jobs
Queen Mary, University of London
University College London

Our Committee

The 2015 Conference was organised and run by the following individuals:

Nichole Gellineau Co-Chair
Josceline Cluff Co-Chair
Rebecca Wilkinson Secretary
Samm Lewis Treasurer
Andrea Cuba, Nicolo Badoli, Inga Bach Programme Co-Ordinators
Ali Nihat Sponsorship Co-ordinators
Guilia Njonga, Barkha Mossae Kana Matsuda Publicity Officers
Mei Yan Fundraising Officer
Karonlina Oseckyte Website Support

If you are interested to learn more about the 2015 Conference the please visit our Contact Us page and get in touch as we may be able to provide you with more information. You might also like to visit YouTube where there are recordings of many of the talks.