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23 Mar 2022

Elena Sánchez Nicholás, EU Observer

Energy Charter Treaty: Calls to ditch 'ecocide treaty' after failed reform efforts

'Calls to ditch 'ecocide treaty' after failed reform efforts', 23 March 2022

"Environmentalists and energy experts have been warning for years over an obscure trade deal that could lock Europe into decades of fossil fuel use. One called it an "ecocide treaty" while others described it as "the world's most dangerous investment agreement." This little-known international agreement, officially known as the Energy Charter Treaty, deals with cross-border investments in the energy industry — and it was signed by 50 countries, including all EU member states, back in 1994. Initially, it was set up to protect investments in post-Soviet countries. But concern has been mounting in recent years because EU countries are facing legal challenges over their climate policies.

Yamina Saheb, who calls it "ecocide treaty," says it's time for the EU to withdraw. Saheb knows the treaty well since she formerly worked at the body overseeing it — and she nowadays leads opposition against the treaty at the Paris-based think-tank OpenExp. "It is impossible to make this treaty climate-friendly," said Saheb told EUobserver in an interview. EU countries cannot comply with the EU climate law and international commitments and, at the same time, ECT obligations, she said. "This treaty is a threat to our democratic system," she said, referring to how countries carefully assess climate policies taking into consideration the risk of litigation under this treaty.

The Energy Charter Secretariat did not respond to EUobserver when asked if this treaty poses a threat to climate action. The majority of ECT disputes are internal EU rows, where, for example, claims against an EU country are brought by an investor from another EU member state. Spain has the biggest number of lawsuits related to ECT, followed by Italy and the Czech Republic. And the treaty has been used on many occasions to challenge climate measures..."