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How people power forced the UK to leave the Energy Charter Treaty

Global Justice Now | 22 February 2024
By Cleodie Rickard

How people power forced the UK to leave the Energy Charter Treaty

Today the UK announced it will leave the climate-wrecking Energy Charter Treaty. This is testament to the tireless campaigning of our supporters over the last 3 years!

In a huge win for people power, we’ve defeated fossil fuel companies’ secret weapon to block climate action – and dealt a blow to the whole system of corporate courts that put corporate profits over people and planet.

Here’s how it happened:

April 2021 – Following the news that US-UK trade talks had been put on hold, we switched the focus of our trade campaign to the trade deals allowing corporations to block climate action.

July 2021 – After 30,000 people quickly backed our campaign, hundreds of people joined our first webinar, with international allies from the Netherlands and Canada explaining how ISDS has been used to block or deter climate action around the world.

July 2021 – We joined 400 organisations across Europe calling on European governments to quit the Energy Charter Treaty ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

September 2021 – Our second webinar heard from allies in Bolivia, Italy and Argentina about the global ISDS regime, as well as its origins as a corporate reaction to the anti-colonial struggles of the 20th century.

September 2021 – Sky News covers our research showing that fossil fuel companies are suing governments for $18 billion around the world via ‘corporate courts’, mostly under the Energy Charter Treaty.

September 2021 – Six weeks ahead of COP26, we held our first day of action on corporate courts and the climate. From a ‘corporate court circus’ walking tour of central London to protests in Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Reading, people across the UK joined us on the streets.

November 2021 – A leaked industry presentation released during COP26 shows that fossil fuel companies could demand over $9 trillion from governments for passing climate laws, using corporate courts. Specialist lawyers were caught predicting a spike in ISDS claims if governments sign up to ambitious climate policy at the UN talks.

November 2021 – Former South African trade minister Rob Davies tells our session at the COP26 People’s Summit that it is possible for countries to leave trade and investment deals containing ISDS without negative economic impacts.

December 2021 – 50,000 people now back the UK campaign. The petition signatures are delivered to trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

January 2022 – Climate ministers from Denmark and New Zealand admit that the threat of investor-state legal claims has prevented their governments from being more ambitious in their climate policies.

April 2022 – An IPCC report on climate mitigation warns of the risk of “ISDS being able to be used by fossil-fuel companies to block national legislation aimed at phasing out the use of their assets”, and highlights the Energy Charter Treaty.

May 2022 – New research suggests the UK could face legal claims of up to £11 billion in corporate courts if it takes the action needed to meet its Paris climate commitments, 70% of which comes from the Energy Charter Treaty.

May 2022 – Global Justice Now members and groups take part in a day of action around the country demanding the UK leaves the treaty. Protests take place outside oil company Rockhopper in Salisbury, outside German coal producer Uniper in Enfield, and law firm Clyde & Co in Glasgow which has taken ECT cases. Events and stalls are held in more than a dozen other locations. An online rally on the eve of the day of action hears from climate activists in France, Spain, Germany, the UK and Uganda.

June 2022 – Global Justice Now supporters flood MPs with correspondence about the climate risks of the ECT, ahead of a crucial meeting on the future of the treaty.

June 2022 – An agreement in principle is reached on ‘modernisation’ proposals for the ECT, after 2 years of negotiations and more than 5 years of talks. But the proposals are condemned as ‘greenwash’ for leaving existing fossil fuels projects protected for 10 years and some gas projects protected until 2040.

August 2022 – Salisbury-based oil company Rockhopper is awarded £210 million from the Italian government under the ECT, following Italy’s introduction of a ban on off-shore oil drilling. It is more than six times that £33m the company invested in the project.

September 2022 – Jacob Rees-Mogg briefly becomes business secretary with responsibility for the UK’s membership of the ECT, under Liz Truss’s premiership.

October 2022 – Greta Thunberg adds her voice to the pan-European campaign against the treaty.

October 2022 – President Macron announces that France will leave the treaty, joining Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Italy.

November 2022 – Global Justice Now activists protest outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ahead of further modernisation talks, as Grant Shapps becomes business secretary.

November 2022 – The latest set of talks over ECT ‘reforms’ that would lock in fossil fuel claims for a decade fails as there is not enough support.

November 2022 – Slovenia, Germany and Luxembourg announce they are leaving the ECT.

December 2022 – Global Justice Now supporters donate £34,653 to our appeal to fund the campaign in 2023.

February 2023 – Global Justice Now activists begin targeted lobbying of key MPs over the ECT, after 90% of MPs are contacted by constituents by email.

February 2023 – The European Commission formally recommends a co-ordinated withdrawal of EU members states from the treaty.

March 2023 – Chris Skidmore MP backs withdrawal in an article for the Financial Times.

April 2023 – Denmark announces it will withdraw.

April 2023 – Global Justice York hold a corporate courts walking tour of the Leeds financial district.

April 2023 – With allies we hold a game of ‘ECT dodgeball’ at the Department for Business and Trade as part of the People’s Picket in Westminster, part of The Big One weekend of climate action.

June 2023 – A new ECT case emerges as a London-listed fossil fuel company seeks a $100 million pay-out after Ireland turned down an application for a new offshore oil field

June 2023 – A group of opposition MPs tables an Early Day Motion in parliament calling for the UK to exit the treaty. A total of 66 MPs sign up, but no Conservatives.

June 2023 – The Committee on Climate Change, the UK government’s independent advisors on climate policy, recommends the UK leaves the treaty.

July 2023 – Conservative MP Chris Skidmore tables an amendment to the Energy Bill calling for an ECT exit.

July 2023 – SNP MPs publicly oppose UK membership of the Energy Charter Treaty

July 2023 – The European Commission again formally recommends a coordinated withdrawal of EU countries.

September 2023 – Global Justice Now polling shows that less than 1 in 10 of the British public think the UK should remain in the treaty.

September 2023 – Thousands of Global Justice Now supporters ask their MPs to back Chris Skidmore’s amendment to the Energy Bill as Parliament returns from recess.

September 2023 – The UK government announces it is reviewing its membership of the treaty, and will consider withdrawal if reforms aren’t passed by November.

October 2023 – Scottish Global Justice Now supporters take the message that Scotland is against the ECT direct to the Scottish parliament. Later the same month, the SNP conference passes a motion calling on the UK to join others in leaving the treaty.

October 2023 – New ECT claims by a UK company against the EU, Germany and Denmark over their imposition of windfall tax on excess oil profits.

November 2023 – We deliver our 120,000-strong joint petition to Number 10 Downing Street showing the mass public support for quitting this treaty.

November 2023 – An ECT members meeting once again fails to pass reforms to the treaty, and instead discusses plans to expand the treaty’s members to major oil-producing countries.

January 2024 – Thousands of Global Justice Now supporters email their MPs to ask why the UK government’s review of its membership is overdue.

February 2024 – The EU Council discusses the proposal for the EU to leave the treaty.

February 2024 – VICTORY! The UK government finally announces it is leaving the Energy Charter Treaty.

Global Justice Now

 source: Global Justice Now