Latest WTO Case Challenging U.S. State Renewable Energy Policies Illustrates Why Global Trade Rules Must Change

Statements of Public Citizen Experts

Note: Late last week, China initiated dispute settlement consultations against the United States at the World Trade Organization (WTO), targeting state-level renewable energy incentive programs in California, Michigan and Washington. A previous case filed by India targeted many of the same programs.

“The WTO is functioning like a circular firing squad against climate sanity with countries taking shots at each other’s renewable energy policies in a manner that in the end stands to kill all of our chances of avoiding planetary disaster.

At a time when nations should be using all tools available to hasten the transition to renewable energy, once again, the WTO’s corporate-rigged rules are being used as a weapon against commonsense environmental progress. The European Union and Japan have used WTO tribunals to attack Canada over the state of Ontario’s successful feed-in-tariff program that incentivized the production of renewable energy, forcing Canada to revise its groundbreaking clean energy program. The United States successfully attacked India’s programs that incentivized local solar production. And then India attacked several U.S. state renewable energy programs that include “buy-local” rules that create local, green jobs and bring new solar entrepreneurs to the economy.

If China goes through with this challenge against some of these same popular U.S. state-level renewable energy programs, it will be just the latest example of how WTO rules – written in the early 1990s by and for multinational corporations – undermine climate action and other important public interest goals. WTO tribunals have already ruled against popular country-of-origin labels for meat and broadly supported U.S. endangered species, clean air and dolphin protections policies.”

-Lori Wallach, director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

“This latest WTO attack on U.S. state policy is particularly concerning because, in the absence of federal energy and climate policy, U.S. states and municipalities have assumed a leadership role to help deploy clean, sustainable energy and combat climate change. Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. feature renewable energy requirements. Half of all growth in U.S. renewable electricity generation and capacity since 2000 is the result of state renewable power requirements.”

-Tyson Slocum, director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

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