The ECT is incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement, Just Transition policies, and the expected European Green Deal, because it is used by large fossil and nuclear energy companies to lock-in their investments and challenge national government decisions to phase out dirty energy. The ECT contains measures to protect energy investments even where they contradict climate goals. And it has an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism that allows foreign investors in the energy sector to directly sue governments outside of existing courts, in secretive international tribunals, claiming up to billions in compensation if their (future) profits are affected.
You can read the full open letter below.
Open letter on the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT)
Members of Parliament and of the European Parliament,
We are writing to you as concerned civil society groups and trade unions from member states of the Energy Charter Conference, which will hold its annual meeting in Brussels over the next two days (10-11 December 2019). A first negotiation round to modernise the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) will take place on 11 December.
We – 271 environmental, climate, consumer, development, and trade related civil society groups, as well as trade unions – believe that the ECT is incompatible with the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, just transition policies developed together with workers and their unions, and other necessary public policy measures. The ECT has been – and will increasingly be – used by fossil fuel and nuclear energy companies to challenge government decisions to phase out such energy sources. It can also be an obstacle to prioritising investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, to bringing energy production under public control, and to taking measures to end energy poverty. The ECT in its current form is outdated and a threat to the public interest.
We therefore call on you to ensure that the ECT can no longer undermine action to avoid climate breakdown, protect the environment, and make energy affordable for all. We also call on you to immediately halt the geographic expansion of the ECT to even more signatory states.
The ECT includes many rules – including on energy transit and trade – but the provisions protecting foreign energy investments are of particular concern. They allow foreign investors in the energy sector to directly sue ECT signatory states outside of existing courts, in secretive international tribunals consisting of three private lawyers. In these tribunals investors can claim dizzying sums of public money in compensation for government actions that they argue have affected their profits.
We identify six key problems with the ECT:
- The ECT protects fossil fuel investments and infrastructure, and is used to challenge and undermine necessary climate action. Since 2017, the UK company Rockhopper has been suing Italy over a ban on new oil and gas operations near the country’s coast, claiming up to $350 million in compensation; in 2017, Canadian company Vermilion threatened to sue France over a proposed law to end fossil fuel extraction, which was then significantly weakened; and in autumn 2019, German company Uniper announced that it would sue the Netherlands and claim compensation if the country approved a law to phase out coal-fired power plants. We are likely to see more ECT lawsuits against climate action in the future as governments start to develop plans for climate neutrality and a clean energy transition. There is a real risk of so called ‘regulatory chill’, where governments are discouraged from taking action when faced with massive compensation claims.
- The ECT puts public budgets and taxpayers’ money at incalculable risk. Private tribunals can force states to pay out billions to compensate investors, including for entirely hypothetical missed ‘future profits’ that are not compensatable under national or EU law. Under the ECT, governments have already been ordered or agreed to pay a total of more than US$51.6 billion in damages from the public purse.
- The ECT could threaten the promotion of renewable energy. The ECT does not allow regulators to discriminate between different sources of energy. This makes it financially risky for governments to take urgently-needed measures to favour renewable energy at the expense of carbon-intensive investments. In addition, the ECT neither protects investments in energy efficiency, nor other measures to reduce energy demand.
- The ECT can undermine environmental protection. One example is Swedish company Vattenfall’s €1.4 billion ECT legal attack from 2009 on environmental standards for a coal-fired power plant in Germany. According to officials, the amount at stake forced the local government to weaken the regulations and settle the case, exacerbating the environmental impacts that the plant will have on the local river and its wildlife. In Vattenfall’s second and ongoing ECT suit against Germany, the company is claiming €6.1 billion for the country’s accelerated nuclear exit following the Fukushima disaster. In November 2019, Australian company Aura Energy put Sweden on notice of an ECT dispute over the country’s 2018 decision to ban uranium mining over environmental and health concerns.
- The ECT can be used to attack measures to make energy affordable and put it under public control. Several Eastern European countries have been sued under the ECT because they took steps to curb big energy’s profits and to lower electricity prices for consumers. ECT provisions can also be used against initiatives to bring energy production and services under public, democratic ownership and control, and reverse the negative impacts of failed energy privatisations.
- Investor-state arbitration under the ECT is at odds with the rule of law and undermines domestic legal systems. Contrary to the principle of equal access to justice, the ECT creates a parallel justice system that is exclusively available to some of the richest and most powerful actors in society: foreign investors. ECT arbitrations are highly secretive and riddled with conflicts of interest as arbitrators earn big money with cases and have an interest in sustaining the boom in ECT disputes. The European Court of Justice, through its 2018 Achmea ruling, has put into question the legality of these parallel private judicial proceedings inside the European Union.
Moreover, the ECT’s investor privileges do not bring the claimed economic benefits. There is currently no evidence that the agreement helps facilitate investment to reduce energy poverty, let alone investment into renewable energy.
As it stands, the modernisation process is unlikely to fix these failures. The EU’s mandate for the negotiations, for example, does not foresee an end to investment protection for fossil fuels, nor an exclusion of investment arbitration or other types of investor-state dispute settlement from the ECT. Any changes to the ECT to make it compatible with the Paris Agreement would have to be agreed unanimously by all its members, many of whom are key fossil fuel producing or trading countries. Some members have already stated that they see no need to revise the ECT at all.
We therefore call on you to:
- Include as a condition for entering negotiations to modernise the ECT the removal of provisions that protect fossil fuels;
- Request the removal of investor-state dispute settlement provisions from the agreement;
- Withdraw from or jointly terminate the ECT, if the modernisation process fails to promptly make the agreement climate- and environment-proof by removing investor-state dispute settlement and protections for fossil fuels;
- Immediately put a brake on the process to expand the ECT geographically to ever new states and to not allow any treaty accessions as long as the ECT is in its current state.
Signed By War on Want and 270 other organisations:
List of signatories:
CEE Bankwatch Network
Friends of the Earth International (FoEI)
Naturefriends International (NFI)
Public Services International (PSI)
European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
European Public Service Union (EPSU)
Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE)
The Green 10
Seattle to Brussels Network
We Move Europe
Organisations from ECT signatory states
Austria: Anders Handeln; GLOBAL 2000 - Friends of the Earth Austria; Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB); Attac Austria; KABÖ; AK EUROPA; younion _ Die Daseinsgewerkschaft; Welthaus Wien; WIDE; Gewerkschaft PROGE; NFI; Welthaus der Diözese Innsbruck; Future Aid - Die Zukunft braucht unsere Hilfe!; Center for Encounter and Active Non-Violence; Netzwerk Soziale Verantwortung; Grüne Bildungswerkstatt NÖ; Gemeinwohlökonomie Steiermark; Vienna Institute for International Development and Cooperation (VIDC); Allianz gerechtes Handeln; DKA Austria
Belgium: ACV-CSC; Entraide et Fraternité; 11.11.11; Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO); CNCD - 11.11.11 (Centre National de Coopération au Développement); Mouvement Ouvrier Chrétien; Climat et Justice Sociale (CJS); Kairos Europe (Wallonie/Bruxelles); Broederlijk Delen; Arbeid & Milieu; Grands-Parents pour le Climat; Ecokerk; 11 March Movement; Climate Express; Workers4Climate; Réseau wallon pour l'accès durable à l'énergie (RWADE); ATTAC Wallonie Bruxelles; Food & Water Action Europe
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Centar za životnu sredinu - Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina; Green team Novi Grad; LIR Evolution
Bulgaria: Foundation for Environment and Agriculture
Croatia: Friends of the Earth Croatia
Cyprus: Friends of the Earth Cyprus
Denmark: Global Aktion; NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark; 3F BJMF
Estonia: Estonian Green Movement
Finland: TTIP Network Finland; The Finish Association for Nature Conservation; Maan ystävät ry - Friends of the Earth Finland; 350 Finland; EKOenergy
France: Veblen Institute; AITEC; Attac France; Amis de la Terre France; CCFD – Terre Solidaire; ActionAid France - Peuples Solidaires; Sherpa; Confédération paysanne; Collectif Stop TAFTA/CETA; Fondation Nicolas Hulot; Notre affaire à tous; Réseau Foi et Justice Afrique Europe Antenne France; Sciences Citoyennes; Emmaüs International; Fédération Droit Au Logement (DAL); Collectif Causse Méjean - Gaz de Schiste NON !; BLOOM; France Nature Environnement; Alofa Tuvalu; Fondation Copernic; Comité Pauvreté et Politique; Alternatives et Autogestion; Fédération Artisans du Monde; SdN75
Germany: Klima-Allianz Deutschland; Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung / German NGO Forum on Environment and Development; WEED - World Economy, Ecology & Development; urgewald; LobbyControl; Attac Germany; PowerShift; BUND - Friends of the Earth Germany; Berliner Wassertisch; FDCL - Center for Research and Documentation Chile-Latin America; Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL); Campact; FIAN Deutschland; AntiAtomBonn; Andy Gheorghiu Consulting; NaturFreunde Deutschlands – Naturefriends Germany; IPPNW Germany; Aktionsbuendnis Energiewende Heilbronn
Greece: Naturefriends Greece; OIKOPOLIS; ECOELEUSIS; PERI.POL.O. of Attica
Hungary: WWF Hungary; National Society of Conservationists - Friends of the Earth Hungary; Védegylet; Éghajlatvédelmi Szövetség (Hungarian Climate Alliance); Hungarian PV and Solar Collector Association - MNNSZ; Ökorégió Alapítvány a Fenntartható Fejlődésért; Kalocsakörnyéki Környezetvédelmi Egyesület; Fauna Alapítvány; Kalocsakörnyéki Környezetvédelmi Egyesület; Zöld Akció Egyesület (Green Action); ZÖLD KÖR; "Bihar" Kis-sárréti Civilek Társasága; Clean Air Action Group; Csalàn Környezet-és Természetvédő Egyesület; Mozgalom az Egészséges Város Környezetéért Civil Társaság; Towards Sustainability Association; BME EZK; Tree of Life Organization; CSEMETE Természet- és Környezetvédelmi Egyesület; GATE Green Club NGO; Ökotárs Alapítvány
Ireland: Irish Environmental Network & Green Foundation Ireland; Extinction Rebellion Ireland; Trócaire; Keep Ireland Fracking Free; FÍS NUA; Climate Change Ireland; ATTAC Ireland; Good Energies Alliance Ireland; Extinction Rebellion Kildare (XRK); Futureproof Clare; Action from Ireland (Afri); Not Here, Not Anywhere; An Taisce (Climate Committee); Feasta: the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability; An Claíomh Glas; Social Justice Ireland
Kazakhstan: Feminist League
Luxembourg: Mouvement Ecologique
Malta: Friends of the Earth Malta
The Netherlands: The Transnational Institute (TNI); Milieudefensie - Friends of the Earth Netherlands; SOMO; Fossielvrij NL; FNV klimaatwerkgroep; WILPF NL Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; Natuur & Milieu; Both ENDS; Nivon Natuurvrienden
Norway: Spire; Attac Norway
Poland: Rozruch; Instytut Globalnej Odpowiedzialności (IGO); Fundacja "Rozwój TAK - Odkrywki NIE"; Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
Portugal: TROCA - Plataforma por um Comércio Internacional Justo; ZERO - Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System; SOS Racismo; GasNaturalNao; Palombar - Associação de conservação da Natureza e do Património Rural; Corporations- Zero Tolerance; Fruta Freia
Romania: Ecoteca Association; Bankwatch Romania; TERRA Mileniul III; Eco V Natura
Slovenia: Focus Association for Sustainable Development; Umanotera
Spain: Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT-España); Ecologistas en Acción; Amigos de la Tierra – Friends of the Earth Spain; ATTAC España; Des de Baix; Catalunya No als Tractats de Comerç i Inversió; Entrepueblos-Entrepobles-Entrepobos-Herriarte; Alternative Republicana; Diputada Asamblea de extremadura (Unidas por Extremadura) Extremeños; eco-union; Amigos de la Tierra Comunidad de Madrid; Observatori DESC; Solidaridad Internacional Andalucis; Unión Sindical Obrera (USO); Ecologistas en Acción de Sanlúcar; Izquierda Unida; Debt Observatory in Globalisation (ODG); NO TTIP-CETA-TISA tARRAGONA-REUS; 24877360p; Enginyeria Sense Fronteres; Plataforma Ciudadana Zaragoza sin Fractura; Asociación de Cultura Popular Alaborada – Gallur; Plataforma por un Nuevo Modelo Energético; ELA; Ong AFRICANDO; Confederación Intersindical; Intersindical Valenciana
Sweden: Swedish Society for Nature Conversation; Jordens Vänner - Friends of the Earth Sweden; Skiftet
Switzerland: Alliance Sud; Public Eye; Pro Natura; Campax
The UK: Trade Justice Movement; UNISON - the public service union; Global Justice Now; War on Want; Traidcraft Exchange; Wen (Women's Environmental Network); Global Justice Glasgow; One World Week; Health Poverty Action; Common Weal; PCS;UK, UNISON Scotland; Rethinking Value Chains; Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland; CORE Coalition; One Planet Limited; The SANE Collective; Carbon Tracker Initiative
Organisations from ECT observer countries
Australia: Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network; National Toxics Network; Climate Justice Union WA
Canada: Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); Climate Emergency Institute; Stand.Earth
The Gambia: Janjanbureh Uniting Sustainable Tourism and Community Training (JustAct)
Indonesia: WALHI - Friends of the Earth Indonesia
Italy: Stop TTIP Italia; Fairwatch; Gruppo Italiano Amici della Natura; Esperanta Civito / Cité espérantienne; Fondazione Punto Sud
Nigeria: Foundaiton for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE); Automobile, Boatyards, Transport, Equipment And Allied Senior Staff Association
Senegal: Lumiere Synergie Developpement; Association Sénégalaise des Amis de la Nature (ASAN)
Uganda: Seatini Uganda; Friends with Environment in Development
USA: FracDallas; ClimateJobsPDX; Labor Council for Latin American Advancement - NYC; 350 New Orleans
Organisations from other countries
Argentina: INPADE / FOCO
El Salvador: CESTA
Ghana: Public Utility Workers Union of TUC-Ghana
Guinee: Federation Nationale des Travailleurs de Guinée
India: RITES Forum
Mozambique: Justiça Ambiental - Friends of the Earth Mozambique
Thailand: Manushya Foundation
Togo: Les Amis de la Terre Togo – Friends of the Earth Togo; Jeunes volontaires pour l'environnement; Attac Togo
Uruguay: REDES - Friends of the Earth Uruguay