An Taisce members nationwide call for a postponement to allow for proper debate

Dublin, 13th December 2020 - The Irish government in the coming days plans to push through a vote to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which is a major Canada-Europe trade agreement with far-reaching and potentially devastating consequences for environmental protection, An Taisce has warned.

CETA is a ‘mixed agreement’ meaning that the ‘trade’ aspects are dealt with separately to the ‘investment protection’ elements.  

The part of the agreement dealing with the real trade in goods, reduction of tariffs, quotas for access, etc is already happening since 2017. According to a November 2019 report on ‘CETA Implementation’ from the European Parliamentary Research Service, 98% of tariff cuts have already happened. So the vote this week is not about trade and jobs.

CETA includes special provisions to allow corporations to sue states for laws or regulations a corporation believes or claims cost it money or may impact future profits. The vote proposed on Tuesday by the Government would constitute Ireland’s acceptance of this part of the trade agreement.

Of the hundreds of such cases taken globally, more than half related to challenging state rules on environmental protection, and around two-thirds of these cases were won by corporations or led to states settling with them.

At Saturday’s extraordinary general meeting of An Taisce, members from across the country expressed outrage at the discovery that such an important matter would be rushed through the Dail. They called for TDs to postpone the vote on the ratification of the agreement which would mean Ireland would be saying yes to the investment protection mechanism and called for the Government to allow proper time for public debate and scrutiny.

An Taisce is therefore demanding the proposed ratification to be postponed to allow time for a full and transparent consultation process to take place so that both the public and Oireachtas members are fully informed on the deal and all its implications, both positive and negative.  

Prof. John Sweeney said:

“I am particularly concerned about the impact CETA might have on the forthcoming EU Green Deal... In the 2021 Climate Change Performance Index Canada is placed 4th from the bottom of the 58 countries ranked. Ireland is in 36th from the top. There is thus a risk of Ireland’s ambitions (e.g. regarding fracked fossil fuels) being compromised by CETA-related actions.”

It is notable that while CETA allows corporations to sue states before arbitration tribunals operating entirely separate to a state’s own legal system, this is a one-way process; there is no reciprocal mechanism for states to sue corporations for breaches under CETA.

Simply by threatening to sue governments for huge amounts, foreign corporations can pressurise states to water down or abolish regulations in areas such as climate, environment, health, finance, or taxation that have been enacted or proposed in the public interest. The fear of such claims can also make a Government fearful of advancing progressive policies and regulations.

Prof. Sweeney added:

“While the consequences of such a finding would potentially impose enormous costs to the taxpayer, it would also inhibit the state from imposing what citizens might consider appropriate future regulatory mechanisms in key areas. Such ‘regulatory chill’ would be a serious imposition on the ability of Ireland to manage its environmental protection”

While ostensibly a Canada-Europe deal, CETA is seen as a Trojan Horse for US multinationals, who, as long as they have a Canadian subsidiary, can claim the same rights under CETA. Given the huge foreign direct investment by US companies into Ireland, this has seriously worrying implications. It is also unclear why Ireland would concede to such provisions when it has been so successful in attracting such a high level of foreign direct investment.

In July 2017, Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan spoke out publicly against CETA, stating that the way it was constructed, around the interests of big corporate lobbyists rather than the public interest, was wrong, explaining that the dispute resolution mechanisms gave corporations power over our government. He drew a particular focus on the lack of certainty regarding the protection of environmental regulations.    


An Taisce is a charity that works to promote environmental awareness and action in the context of the climate and biodiversity emergencies, with a focus on ecosystem resilience and biodiversity enhancement as essential to sustain human community and wellbeing.

For more information, press only:

John Gibbons

An Taisce Climate Committee PRO

087 233 2689