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10 Mar 2023

Kyla Tienhaara and Rachel Thrasher

Opinion: UK and EU must exit Energy Charter Treaty together

The UK and EU must leave the Energy Charter Treaty together, 10 March 2023

"The European Union’s exit from the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) now appears to be a matter of when, not if.

In a leaked document, the European Commission informed member countries last month that a coordinated withdrawal from the treaty is “unavoidable”. France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, and Spain have already announced their intentions to withdraw unilaterally. The ECT, signed in 1994 and ratified by 50 predominantly European countries, is increasingly being used by fossil fuel companies to sue governments for introducing climate policies.

The European Parliament has called for an exit from the treaty, noting among other concerns that it is incompatible with the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement by 196 countries to set ambitious emissions-reductions targets. The UK government has expressed similar concerns about the ECT. But last year, it committed to new terms to “limit costly legal challenges from fossil fuel investors” in a proposed ‘modernised’ version of the treaty. This position must be reconsidered now that the EU seems poised to abandon the modernisation process.

Experts in the UK support withdrawal and polling indicates that the British public does too. Chris Skidmore, a former UK energy minister and chair of the Net Zero Review to help map out a transition plan for UK climate targets, has called the ECT “a threat to the UK’s net zero ambitions at home and its credibility abroad.”..."