sent by a member – an interesting amicus brief today..
“This morning, environmental, civil society and labour organizations sent a joint amicus curiae (friend of the court) submission to the WTO supporting Canada’s defence of the Ontario Green Energy Act. The landmark 2009 renewable energy and climate change policy is being attacked at the WTO by Japan and the European Union, with backup from the United States, who all claim that it involves illegal (under WTO rules) subsidies to local producers of wind and solar equipment and services. The first hearing into the case, which pits climate change and trade liberalization obligations against each other, took place in Geneva in March 2012. There’s a second hearing tomorrow and Wednesday where rebuttals will be heard.
Japan and the EU say they see nothing wrong with Ontario’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by increasing renewable energy production and shutting down coal-fired plants. But they take offense to domestic content requirements that wind and solar power suppliers must meet in order to qualify for feed-in-tariff rates set by the Province. The EU is also pressuring Ontario to remove domestic content quotas from the Green Energy Act and other provincial contracts through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations with Canada. The WTO challenge is likely a way to add pressure to Ontario and other Canadian provinces to fully commit hydro and transit agencies, as well as their municipalities, to rigid procurement rules forbidding the use of public spending as a local development tool.
In other words, Japan and the EU oppose the idea of sustainable development, which says that environmental protection can and should be combined with economic development and job creation objectives as the Green Energy Act was designed to do. If they win their case at the WTO, there will be implications for sustainable development policies globally, which is why this dispute is garnering global attention.
The Canadian groups involved in the amicus curiae submission — Blue Green Canada, the Canadian Auto Workers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union of Canada, the Council of Canadians and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union — believe strongly that Ontario is right to use public spending on electricity to try to develop green infrastructure and green jobs. We believe it is the right of all countries to use procurement in creative ways to address the multiple crises facing our world — from climate change to food insecurity to financial instability.
Our joint submission to the WTO was prepared by Steven Shrybman, trade and public interest lawyer with Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, and member of the board of the Council of Canadians. (read more about the brief at the link above)