All the versions of this article: [English] [français]
Euractiv | 20 July 2023
Portugal announces withdrawal from Energy Charter Treaty
Portugal’s Environment Minister Duarte Cordeiro annouced this week that the country has started withdrawing from the Energy Charter Treaty, in line with a proposal tabled by the European Commission two weeks ago.
The Energy Charter Treaty is a multilateral convention signed by 53 European and Asian countries and has been in force since 1998. It allows companies in the energy sector to sue countries whose legislation puts their investments at risk.
“Portugal has made the decision,” said Cordeiro. “It has started the denunciation process, and the motion for a resolution” to quit the Energy Charter Treaty “is in the legislative procedure,” he said during a session of the parliament committee on environment and energy.
Responding to a question from MP Rui Tavares, the minister also said he expects the government to approve leaving the treaty soon, following a European Commission proposal to do so, put forward on 7 July.
“We are considering leaving the Energy Treaty. This is a matter that has to be considered in more than one area of the government, but we are making this assessment”, Cordeiro said back in November, in response to Tavares, during a special parliament session on the country’s proposed budget for 2023.
On 20 October, the environmental organisations Zero and Troca called for Portugal to withdraw as they say the treaty “protects investment in fossil fuels” and “blocks the energy transition”.
The position was expressed in a joint statement after the Netherlands withdrew from the treaty, following Spain and Poland.
EU member states had to decide by mid-November whether or not to approve the treaty update, except for Italy, which withdrew from the agreement in 2015. The 53 signatory countries must unanimously agree upon the treaty update to succeed.
According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the treaty is a “serious obstacle to mitigating” the effects of global warming.
Zero and Troca believe the charter is incompatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which sets targets for reducing greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
Political party Livre praised the announcement by Portugal’s environment minister, saying the decision was “long overdue”.
In a statement sent to newsrooms, the party represented in parliament by the sole MP Rui Tavares wrote that the Energy Charter Treaty “is extremely harmful, as it allows countries to compensate polluting industries, holding signatories hostage to large oil companies and oligarchic regimes”.
“It also creates a system of parallel tribunals where big polluters can claim losses for being forced to adopt environmental protection measures. It was therefore urgent that Portugal withdraw from this treaty, and Livre is pleased that this decision has finally been taken,” the text added.
The party said that it had “questioned the government several times about leaving this treaty since the 2022 elections, and in June 2022, it presented a draft resolution that was rejected with the votes against by the PS (eight members in favour, four abstentions), PSD and Liberal Initiative”.
“Likewise, in October 2022, Livre asked the prime minister directly in a parliamentary debate on this matter, but António Costa refused to reply,” the statement added.