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November 21, 2012

World Trade Organization Attacks Successful Canadian Clean Energy Program

Sierra Club and Public Citizen Express Disappointment

Geneva – The World Trade Organization (WTO) has just announced a ruling against Ontario’s successful renewable energy incentives program that is designed to reduce carbon emissions and create clean energy jobs. This highlights the threat posed by the WTO to a clean energy future. The WTO ruled that Ontario’s renewable energy incentives – or “feed-in tariff” – program violated the WTO rules that forbid treating local or domestic firms and products differently from foreign firms and products.

"As countries take steps to address the climate crisis, the last thing we need is the WTO interfering with innovative climate programs. Ontario’s solar and wind incentives program seeks to reduce dangerous carbon pollution and create clean energy jobs, and it should serve as a model for other countries, not a punching bag," said Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Trade Representative.

Ontario’s renewable energy incentives program was established under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act of 2009. It increases incentives to develop clean and safe renewable energy by guaranteeing the provincial public electricity utility, Ontario Power Authority, will pay a competitive price for 20 years to companies for the wind, solar, and other clean energies they produce. Although the program is new, it has already achieved significant success, including contracts for an estimated 4,600 megawatts worth of clean energy and the creation of more than 20,000 jobs.

"Only an attack on this sort of job-creating, climate-chaos-combating policy could put the WTO in worse repute than last year’s string of WTO rulings ordering us to gut popular U.S. laws on country-of-origin meat labels, dolphin-safe tuna labels and limits on candy-flavored cigarettes marketed to kids," said Lori Wallach, Public Citizen Global Trade Watch Director. "Combating the climate crisis and transitioning to a clean-energy economy must include relocalizing production and creating green jobs, so having the WTO declare that governments cannot do this is simply intolerable."

The Sierra Club and Public Citizen are particularly disappointed that the U.S. decided to weigh in on this case by submitting a third-party brief pointing out how Ontario’s program violated WTO rules.

"Instead of attacking another countries’ clean energy program, the U.S. government should focus on how we will build on our own solutions to tackle the climate crisis and create clean energy jobs," Solomon said.

This case follows an alarming trend of anti-environment and anti-consumer rulings at the WTO.   In May 2012, the WTO ruled against U.S. dolphin-safe tuna labels, which they said discriminated against Mexican tuna fishers. And in June 2012, the WTO ruled against the highly popular country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat, which shows American consumers where their food is coming from and helps health regulators track food safety issues. In April 2012, the WTO ruled against the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which bans the sale of candy and sweet-flavored cigarettes that attract youth to smoking.

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