Cosmic or Cosmetic Reform: Commentaries on the real and imagined potential of CETA’s investment tribunal

CIGI’s International Law Research Program invited commentary by noted experts in the field about the promise and peril of CETA’s new investment tribunal and whether this development will enhance or hinder global rule of law. In this series, these experts opine on the tribunal’s potential impact on the often criticized system of ISA: whether it is a significant reform, a superficial adjustment or a retrenchment. Readers will have to draw their own conclusions as to whether this is a cosmic or cosmetic reform of the system of ISA.

Investor-State Arbitration

Launched in November 2014, this project addresses a central policy issue of contemporary international investment protection law: is investor-state arbitration (ISA) suitable between developed liberal democratic countries? The project will review legal and policy reactions to investor-state arbitrations taking place within these countries and summarize the substantive grounds upon which claims are being made and their impact on public policy making by governments. The project will review, critically assess and critique arguments made in favour and against the growing use of ISA between developed democracies — paying particular attention to Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, the United States and Australia, where civil society groups and academic critics have come out against ISA.

CIGI Graduate Fellows Policy Brief Series

The CIGI Graduate Fellows program at the Balsillie School of International Affairs provides students with mentorship opportunities from senior scholars and policy makers. The program consists of research assistantships, policy brief writing workshops, interactive learning sessions with senior experts from CIGI and publication opportunities. Working under the direction of a project leader, graduate fellows conduct research in one of CIGI’s program areas. This series presents those policy briefs that have met CIGI’s publications standards.

Fixing Climate Governance Series

Climate scientists agree that human activity has been changing our planet’s climate over the long term. Without serious policy changes, scientists expect devastating consequences in many regions: inundation of coastal cities; greater risks to food production and, hence, malnutrition; unprecedented heat waves; greater risk of high-intensity cyclones; many climate refugees; and irreversible loss of biodiversity. Some international relations scholars expect increased risk of violent conflicts over scarce resources and due to state breakdown.

Environmentalists have been campaigning for effective policy changes for more than two decades. The world’s governments have been negotiating since 1995 as parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Their 2015 Paris Agreement created a new regime for joint action; among other things, it is the first UN climate agreement to oblige all parties to make some contribution. Each party made a pledge pertaining to the period 2020 to 2025 or 2030. But it is widely agreed that if they are all implemented, together these 2015 pledges will still fall far short of what is needed to meet the collective goals and avoid widespread catastrophes. Important details of the Paris Agreement itself also remain to be negotiated. Nor is the UNFCCC the whole of international climate governance. Many initiatives have also been launched by smaller sets of countries, national governments, provinces, cities, civil society, and private investors and companies.  

This project is designed to generate improved ideas for both the UNFCCC process and other possible sites of climate governance. During 2015 we published nine policy briefs and papers, which can be found below. The ideas in two of them appeared in Paris during COP21. Several offered original recommendations for more effective action outside the UNFCCC. A new series of publications will appear during 2016-2017.