‘Either we kill it, or it will kill us’: The fight to dismantle a shadow court system threatening climate goals
ONDON — The Energy Charter Treaty is not widely known, yet it’s feared the influence of this international agreement could be enough by itself to derail hopes of capping global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The ECT contains a highly contentious legal mechanism that allows foreign energy companies to sue governments over climate action that could hurt future profits.
These “corporate court” cases, sometimes referred to as investor-state dispute settlements, are highly secretive, take place outside of the national legal system and can often lead to far larger financial awards than companies might otherwise expect.
Five fossil fuel companies are already known to be seeking over $18 billion in compensation from governments over energy policy changes and most of these have been brought via the ECT.
For example, Germany’s RWE and Uniper are suing the Netherlands over coal phase-out plans and the U.K.’s Rockhopper is suing Italy over a ban on offshore drilling.
A spokesperson for Uniper told CNBC: “The Dutch government has announced its intention to shut down the last coal-fired power plants by 2030 without compensation.
“Uniper is convinced that shutting down our power plant in Maasvlakte after only 15 years of operation would be unlawful without adequate compensation.”
RWE said it “expressly supports the energy transition in The Netherlands. In principle, it also supports the measures to reduce CO2 associated with the law, but believes compensation is necessary.”
A spokesperson for Rockhopper said: “The Energy Charter Treaty is designed to provide a stable platform for energy sector investments. The Italian government issued licenses and encouraged significant investment in oil and gas exploration, based on this platform.”
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