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Belgian environment minister supports withdrawal from Energy Charter Treaty

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Euractiv< | 25 October 2022

Belgian environment minister supports withdrawal from Energy Charter Treaty

By Anne-Sophie Gayet

Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development, and Green Deal Minister Zakia Khattabi reiterated her support for Belgium’s withdrawal from the Energy Charter Treaty during the EU’s Environmental Council meeting on Monday (24 October).

While around 25,000 people marched in Brussels on Sunday to demand more ambitious climate measures, Khattabi once again called for a withdrawal from the Energy Charter Treaty, according to an official press release.

The treaty, which dates back to 1998 and was signed by 53 countries, gives special protection to investors in the energy sector and allows companies to sue states before a private arbitration tribunal to challenge decisions they consider harmful to their interests.

NGOs and some EU member states have said the Treaty is being used by energy companies and investors to discourage developing countries from phasing out fossil fuels.

In Belgium, green parties have already called for EU member states to withdraw from the Treaty, and this position was reiterated yesterday by Khattabi’s office, which added that such a move would be “the ideal option,” Belga reported.

Over the past few years, the treaty has been in a process of modernisation which was concluded in June after 15 rounds of negotiations. It is scheduled to be formally endorsed at a summit in Mongolia on 22 November.

Although there are some improvements, these are “largely insufficient,” according to Khattabi. In fact, the minister has long been convinced that this Treaty could never comply with EU climate objectives and calls it a “Trojan horse” for the bloc’s climate policy.

The minister thus wishes to follow Poland, Spain, the Netherlands and France, in withdrawing from the treaty.

The European Commission defended the reform of the treaty on Monday, believing that “the results of the modernisation process respect the energy transition and climate objectives, as well as modern investment protection rules, which is particularly important in the current context where a wave of investment in green energy is expected,” a spokesperson of the EU executive told RTBF.

She also added that withdrawing from the treaty would mean “continuing to apply the old version of the Treaty to existing investments […] for two decades,” which is one of the reasons why modernisation was chosen since the other option was “worse.”

However, back in September, the CNCD-11.11.11, an NGO, called for another solution, a coordinated withdrawal of a large group of states from the Treaty, which would be “the best option” since the states could then disable the twenty years clause between themselves.

 source: Euractiv