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Fight to defend environment and consumer protection slows EU-US trade talks

The EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht has ordered a public consultation on a legal clause in the emerging EU-US trade agreement that campaigners say could undermine environmental and consumer protection. The legal provision, known as ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, would give companies the right to take legal action against governments if they feel their investment potential or profits are being hindered by regulatory or policy changes at national level. What’s more, such disputes would be judged by special panels made up of people acceptable to business interests, and bypass national laws.

10 things that went well for sustainable transport in 2013

Yes, this editorial has an unlikely title. If you have been following us, or the issues we work on, a little bit, the overwhelming impression is that things have been scaled back (emissions-trading aviation), postponed (the Fuel Quality Directive, possibly NOx from ship engines, truck CO2 emissions) and watered down (CO2 from cars, biofuels).

Europe can and should use its trade muscle for the green cause

Suddenly Karel de Gucht is the most talked-about figure in Brussels. The Belgian trade commissioner is very busy. He is trying to finish a free trade deal with Canada; his boss and Obama are pressing for a deal with the US to be next.  And then there is China – where the direction is towards less, not more, free trade. The EU has just imposed an anti-dumping 12% tariff on Chinese solar panels, with a threat to go to 47%. In its response, China is trying to play the usual divide-and-rule tactic by threatening tariffs on wine (annoying for the French), and luxury cars (annoying for the Germans).

Lagarde calls for a ‘green economy’, and supports carbon charges for transport

The head of the International Monetary Fund has said the economic growth needed to get the world’s economies back to health must be ‘on a different track than before the crisis’. Christine Lagarde’s comments came just after a number of ex-finance ministers wrote to today’s European finance ministers, asking them to shift the burden from income tax and VAT on to carbon and energy taxes.