Briefings Academics urge UK Government to exit climate-busting Treaty


Academics urge UK Government to exit climate-busting Treaty

More than 110 UK academics have signed an open letter calling on the Government to exit a little known treaty - the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) - that could hamper climate ambition.

The ECT allows companies to sue Governments directly for policies that could affect their profits. The number of cases being brought under the treaty against climate measures has been increasing. UK company Rockhopper were awarded £210 million against Italy when the country banned the exploitation of oil and gas along their coastline. German companies Uniper and RWE also threatened to take the Netherlands to court for their phase out of coal-fired power stations.

The letter comes at a moment of crisis for the ECT as its members increasingly view it as incompatible with their climate ambitions. The European Commission signalled on the 8th February that it intended to withdraw as a block from the treaty. Previously seven European countries, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, had already stated that they would withdraw.

The academics signatories warn that “we have a very limited time to undertake a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions” and that “continued membership of the ECT will harm our prospects of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees because it will prolong the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels and impede the transition to renewable energy.”

This echoes warnings by the IPCC in 2022 that the ECT risks blocking the phase out of fossil fuels.

Despite the clear climate concerns and mounting international pressure, the UK has remained silent on the issue. If the UK stays in the treaty, estimates suggest it could end up exposed to around £5.3 billion of claims.

The letter notes that the conclusion of COP27, the recent end to the UK’s COP26 presidency and the ECT modernisation meeting proposed for early April make this a key moment for the UK to withdraw.


ISDS Energy Charter Treaty ECT