What’s going on here?
Five young people aged between 17-31, who have experienced devastating extreme weather events are launching legal action at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT).
What does this mean?
You’re probably wondering, like I did, what is the ECT and what does it have to do with human rights? So here’s a quick summary:
- The ECT was signed and came into force in the 1990s to protect the interests of western investors pouring money into the oil and gas rich nations of the former Soviet Union.
- It enables fossil fuel companies to sue governments for lost profits and it is not a transparent system.
- It has over 50 member countries, including EU states and the UK.
- The ECT has been described as a threat to the Paris Agreement – it could allow companies to sue governments for an estimated 1.3trillion euros until 2050 in compensation for early closure of coal, oil and gas plants.
Cases under the ECT have seen a surge in recent years. Examples include the German energy company RWE suing the Netherlands for €1.4bn over its plans to phase out coal; and Rockhopper Exploration, based in the UK, is suing the Italian government after it banned new drilling near the coast.
These young claimants are suing countries that are home to companies that have been using the ECT. They argue that membership of the ECT violates the right to life (article two) and right to respect for private and family life (article eight) of the European convention on human rights.
Why should we care?
Protecting fossil fuel investors cannot be compatible with the EU climate goals. The claimants will argue that the ECT is a dangerous blocker for climate action.
In addition, climate scientists wrote a letter to EU leaders setting out clearly that continuing to protect fossil fuel investors under ECT would jeopardise EU climate neutrality and the EU Green Deal.
The treaty is coming under more scrutiny and efforts to “modernise” the treaty are ongoing. Scepticism that the treaty could ever be compatible with climate goals is leading some members to investigate withdrawal.
Read the letter from climate scientist to EU leaders about this loophole here: 2022-06-21 Letter from climate scientists to EU leaders.pdf (endfossilprotection.org)
Take action and join climate activists fighting fossil fuel investment – Victoria’s ‘Ban the carbon bomb‘ piece from earlier this month is a great summary
Listen to Drilled podcast for more heinous ways the fossil fuel industry protects itself at all costs. It is a true-crime podcast about climate change, hosted and reported by award-winning investigative journalist Amy Westervelt