At the outset of the final round of negotiations to reform the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), activists organise a massive media stunt on Schuman roundabout in the heart of Europe in an urgent attempt to call on the European Union and its Member States to exit the Energy Charter Treaty.
A climate action killer
A seven meter tall inflatable dinosaur representing the ‘prehistoric’ Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is stopping in Brussels, on Schuman roundabout, as part of a Europe-wide tour taking in major cities and capitals across the continent.
The ECT-Rex and its handlers are spreading a message about the dangers of the treaty, which protects fossil fuel investments and blocks action on climate change, just weeks ahead of a ‘now or never’ opportunity for countries to withdraw from it.
This monster dino made from fossil fuel infrastructure – a car for jaws and an oil tanker for the tail – cannot be ignored. Climate activists warn the ECT is the fossil fuel dinosaur in the room. Contracting parties including the EU and its Member States must recognise its massive impact on climate and work collectively to withdraw from it. This is a secretive and little known treaty and – just like the ECT-Rex – it belongs in the past. Over one million people have signed a petition demanding countries withdraw from the ECT.
Paul de Clerck, Economic justice expert for Friends of the Earth Europe said:
“We have a historic opportunity in the next few weeks to ditch this prehistoric dinosaur in the room that is the Energy Charter Treaty. The only purpose of the ECT is to protect big fossil fuel polluters and give them the tools to prevent much needed climate policies. From the very beginning, negotiations to reform the treaty have been a massive failure. The only sound option for the EU and Member States to transition towards net-zero is to withdraw from this toxic ECT.”
Cornelia Maarfield, Trade and Climate Project Manager at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said:
“The dynamics are clearly in favour of withdrawal with major EU Member States and the European Parliament no longer backing the reform. It’s time the Commission reads the writing on the wall and suggests a joint withdrawal to EU Member States. This is the only way to free states from the yoke of this anti-climate deal and to ensure EU law is no longer violated by it.“
Bye Bye ECT-Rex
The Energy Charter Treaty is a trade and investment treaty adopted in the 1990s. It is the most litigated treaty ever signed and there is every expectation that as countries deliver coal phase-outs, the European Green Deal and other Paris aligned climate policies the threat of legal action under the ECT will grow even stronger.
Fossil fuel companies use the treaty to block policies which aim to reduce and reverse the impacts of climate change. RWE and Uniper are both currently suing the Dutch government for billions of euros in compensation over policies which require the closure of coal-fired power plants. The ECT could also allow fossil fuel gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 to seek compensation from international investment tribunals, after the German government decided to stop the pipeline’s certification at the beginning of the war against Ukraine.
Time is running out for signatories to meet a June 2022 deadline for agreement on an updated ECT text. Unanimity is needed to approve changes to the ECT and there are still major divisions between contracting parties. This has led many in the EU Parliament, including MEP’s from the Greens, Left, S&D, Renew, and the EPP, to call for the Commission to make plans for a coordinated exit.
ECT-Rex organisers want exactly this; a coordinated exit of all EU countries, which they hope will send the Treaty where it belongs – into the past.
- Recent analysis suggests that the EU is failing to achieve its objectives for ECT reform and the Treaty will continue to undermine climate ambitions, contradict EU law and promote outdated systems for investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS).
- A recent report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) now shows that almost 20% of all dispute settlement proceedings between investors and states are related to the fossil fuel industry – a clear and significant roadblock to the clean energy transition. Meanwhile, the ECT looms over the Nord Stream 2 decision, with investors known to be considering their options for enforcing compensation claims. Legal questions remain too following the European Court of Justice ruling that the ECT is invalid.
- How the Energy Charter Treaty risks undermining the outcomes of COP 26, article by IISD.
- IISD and ClientEarth article exploring the legal conditions for countries to withdraw jointly and neutralise the sunset clause, which allows investors to sue for 20 years after a state has withdrawn from the ECT.
- 8 reasons why the Energy Charter Treaty reform process is doomed to failure, blog by Climate Action Network Europe.
- IPCC 6th Assessment Report – Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of climate change, full report highlights the ECT and ISDS mechanism as a blocker to mitigation.