My response to constituents who contacted me about the Energy Charter Treaty:
Thank you for contacting me about the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT).
I appreciate the concerns you raise. It is increasingly clear that the ECT – in its current form – has become a major barrier to effective international action to tackle the climate crisis, with energy companies using the treaty’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions to challenge plans to move to net zero.
In particular, where companies are able to claim their investments in fossil fuel extraction are being damaged by government intervention, they can use the ECT to sue for damages or use the threat of lawsuits to deter governments from acting. We see, for example, the cases of RWE and Uniper suing the Netherlands for €1.4 billion and up to €1 billion respectively over the phase-out of coal and of UK oil company Rockhopper, which is suing Italy over a ban on offshore.
I have therefore supported calls for the Government to back efforts to remove in full the ISDS protections fossil fuel companies enjoy in the ECT, so that the treaty puts our climate first.
As you will know, on 24 June 2022 members of the ECT reached an agreement in principle – to be formally approved in November – for reforms to the treaty, including a “flexibility mechanism” allowing signatories to exclude fossil fuels from investment protection in their territories. Under the new deal, the EU and UK have opted to carve out fossil fuel-related investments from investment protection under the ECT, with new investments excluded from 15 August 2023 and existing investments excluded after ten years from the entry into force of the new provisions.
The Government says the reformed ECT will reduce the risk of costly legal challenges as we transition to net zero. However, I know that campaigners are concerned that the ten-year phase-out for existing investments will protect projects that need to be cancelled and that since other countries can choose not to exclude fossil fuel investments from protection, UK fossil fuel companies can continue to sue other governments over their climate policies. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to monitor this issue, keeping in mind the important concerns you raise.
More widely, I can also assure you that I oppose any ISDS clauses in future trade deals that deter action to protect the environment.
Give your concern over the climate crisis, you may be interested to read my Edinburgh South COP26 Climate Manifesto. In the lead-up to COP26 last year, I was connecting climate experts, local stakeholders, and constituents to formulate a manifesto on tackling climate change, whilst this is not an exhaustive list of all the issues on this complex subject it reflects the discussions that were had and where constituents took these discussions. You can view and download it here: https://www.ianmurraymp.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/98/2021/10/Edinburgh-South-Climate-Manifesto-FINAL-FINAL.pdf