EPPN Creation Care Series: Trade Deals
While local action serves an integral role in mitigating further damage to God’s Creation, we must always keep a global perspective as those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the majority of emissions are beyond the United States. America is neither the world’s greatest victim nor the world’s sole hope. It must, however, use the resources and power available to help lead.
We must utilize direct and indirect international agreements to move the world’s community of nations forward together. Direct methods, such as the Paris Accords, are an important comprehensive step, as they create forums for scientists, diplomats, and civil society organizations to build mutual goals. Indirect methods, such as clauses in trade deals, can be helpful so that no nation has to take unilateral steps that might have negative short-term economic impacts. Trade deals are usually designed with enforcement mechanisms which can further decrease the economic risk of change by ensuring all parties change together. Just as God knows no boundaries in creation, our responsibility to love our neighbors does not stop at political boundaries or the current generation’s interest alone.
The United States has significant trading power, and if the U.S. prioritized the intrinsic value and global goals related to environmental standards and safe working conditions, this could shift the international market to favor products and labor standards that give dignity to all humans and respect toward God’s creation. These aspects are currently addressed in many trade deals; however, they are addressed through the perspective of balancing the economic playing field between the U.S. and nations with lower standards. While this is important on worker protections, greater ambition is needed to set joint standards that will make significant progress toward addressing global climate. Trade deals can and must more substantially address environmental costs.
The Episcopal Church has recognized that economic policy has direct effects and consequences for all humans and that it is necessary to facilitate global economies in consideration of God’s Creation. Trade gives nations the opportunity to affect the entire world economically, environmentally, and socially by allowing nations to select products and trading partners that align with their goals and initiatives, resources, and production capacity. This approach is commonly referred to as a triple bottom line, bringing the environmental and social impacts of trade deals to equal footing with the economic bottom line.
The Episcopal Church supports trade policies that prevent environmental degradation. If the U.S., along with other large trading powers, commit to a set of sustainable principles to guide trading policies, then other nations and corporations will be incentivized to be more sustainable. Mutual commitment, through enforceable agreements, also significantly reduces the risk associated with unilateral action on an exclusively economic bottom line. There could be economic risk associated with major unilateral reforms, but we have seen the benefits of regional collaboration in places like the European Union where environmental and economic policy have been coordinated by 28 nations. The climate crisis today requires coordinated global action by all industrialized economies and trade pacts can be a powerful mechanism to accomplish this goal.
To act as Christians is to ensure that our actions respect the dignity of all of God’s people, and this includes reversing and avoiding even worse environmental damage that decreases the standard of living of all. As part of The Episcopal Church’s resolution to encourage sound environmental practice through trade, the Church also recognizes the importance of ensuring these practices include the protection of human rights for all workers.
Economic markets exist to give agency to consumers and trading bodies, and the Church believes that all economic activity should contribute to the well-being of all persons, serve the poor, and promote the dignity and right of humans. The Office of Government Relations is, therefore, charged to support trade policy which emphasizes engagement with nations that take seriously their duty to be stewards of creation while promoting the dignity and rights of all human beings.
We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Toward this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. - The Earth Charter, June 29, 2000
The Earth Charter calls for a “culture of peace.” How does stewardship for the earth, our island home, foster the development of such a culture?
What possible ways can you use your market power to ensure that you are not supporting environmental degradation or neglect of humans in the workplace?
Take action today and take the Pledge to Care for Creation!