The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is a huge obstacle for the clean energy transition.
We therefore demand from European governments, parliaments and EU institutions:
“Pull out of the Energy Charter Treaty and stop its expansion to other countries! The treaty allows coal, oil and gas corporations to obstruct the transition to a clean energy system. Disarm fossil fuel firms now, so they can no longer impede urgent climate action!”
Time to end the power of #fossilfuel corporations to oppose the phase-out of #coal, #gas and #oil! The Energy Charter Treaty must go! Please sign the petition and share widely! #ClimateAction #noECT
Time to end the power of fossil fuel corporations to oppose the phase-out of coal, gas and oil! The Energy Charter Treaty must go! Please sign the petition and share widely!
Stop the anti-climate treaty!
This petition is supported by a wide coalition of organisations, including Avaaz, Campact, Corporate Europe Observatory, Transnational Institute, WeMove and many others.
What is the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT)?
Watch this excellent 2-minute explainer video by independent journalists from Investigate Europe to find out:
The ECT is an international agreement signed in 1994, which applies to more than 50 countries. The ECT gives foreign investors in the energy sector sweeping powers to sue states over government actions that have supposedly ‘damaged’ their investments. Investors use a parallel court system to sue, and the compensation governments have to pay out can be in the billions. The ECT is increasingly controversial – particularly due to its potential to obstruct the transition from climate-wrecking fossil fuels towards renewable energy.
How does the ECT undermine the clean energy transition?
The ECT allows foreign investors in the energy sector to sue governments for decisions that might negatively impact their profits. That includes climate policies, for example German coal giant RWE is suing the Netherlands for €1.4 billion in compensation for the Dutch coal phase-out. Because the ECT’s legal regime favours investors, is unpredictable, and the fines that governments can be hit with are catastrophically large, the treaty acts as a strong incentive to delay, weaken, or drop much needed action to advance the energy transition.
Which countries are at risk?
Many. These are the countries in which the ECT fully applies and so could be sued for taking action to keep fossil fuels in the ground: Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. As a separate ECT member the EU can also be sued as a whole.
What about the expansion to even more countries?
The Brussels-based Secretariat of the ECT – the driving force behind drumming up both support and new signatories for the treaty – is putting great effort into expanding the geographical reach of the agreement to countries in Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. The Secretariat downplays the risks of the ECT and exaggerates its benefits. As a result, many countries are in line to sign the agreement, with its extreme investor privileges. In signing up, they risk shrinking their ability to decide their own energy policy, as well as opening themselves up to the potential for costly lawsuits by investors. We need to stop this dangerous expansion of the ECT.
How can countries get out of the ECT?
Withdrawing from the ECT is not difficult. As soon as a country has been a member for five years, it can leave the ECT at any time by simply giving written notification. This is true for nearly all of the treaty’s 50-plus members, including the EU and its member states. They could withdraw from the ECT immediately; Italy did just that in 2016. A joint withdrawal of all remaining EU member states would have an even greater positive impact.
What’s the role of the EU?
Together with member states like the Netherlands and the UK, the EU was the driving force behind the ECT negotiations in the 1990s. They wanted to protect the investments of fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP in post-Soviet bloc countries. But today, EU member states are at the receiving end of costly claims and the ECT threatens to undermine the European Green Deal and the EU’s climate law. Having started the ECT mess, the EU has the responsibility for cleaning it up – for the sake of a world that needs to decarbonise rapidly.
Isn’t the ECT being reformed?
The European Commission wants to reform the ECT, to make it climate friendly and to modernise the way it protects investments. Since 2018 there has been a negotiation to try to reform the treaty along these lines but so far this process has been a failure. Some of the most important issues aren’t even being discussed. The reformed ECT will still protect fossil fuels and give extreme privileges to investors. The only way to free the EU from the restrictions of the ECT is to withdraw from it altogether.
Where can I find more information?
Further information in our policy briefing
On the ECT’s reform process: CAN Europe’s media briefing
More information on why reform has failed to deliver the EU’s objectives in this briefing’: CAN Europe’s briefing