Dutch Party for the Animals takes on treaty of fossil energy giants: kick out the ECT!

17 December 2019

The Party for the Animals is taking on the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT). The ECT, an energy investment treaty of over 25 years old, allows energy companies to sue national states before an independent investment court. This gravely hampers European, and in turn Dutch, climate policy. As it seems, the Netherlands is about to be sued by two German energy companies.

Esther Ouwehand, Party for the Animals leader and MP.

The Dutch Senate decided last week that the use of coal to generate energy will be banned in the Netherlands entirely by 2030. In the run-up to this decision, German energy companies Uniper and RWE threatened to sue the Dutch state for billions of euros, a scenario possible under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause (ISDS) in the ECT.

Esther Ouwehand, the leader of the Party for the Animals in parliament, submitted a large number of questions about the matter to the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Aid and the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate. “We are in the midst of a climate emergency. We cannot accept energy companies thwarting highly urgent climate policy on the basis of this outdated treaty. The Netherlands must take steps now to start cancelling the ECT," says Ouwehand.

The potential of the ECT to influence the policies of member states is made clear by the case of Vattenfal against Germany. Under pressure from a possible claim, Germany was forced to lower standards for waste water from nuclear power plants. Uniper and RWE have been threatening the Dutch government with imminent claims as the coal ban could have an adverse effect on these companies.

Nearly 300 European NGOs called on European government leaders last week to cancel the ECT. For Ouwehand, it goes without saying that the Netherlands must step out of the treaty. Ouwehand: “European government leaders are obedient and subservient to big business at the moment. They are allowing a handful of fossil energy companies, the dinosaurs of the business world, to blackmail them. There’s only one possible answer: get rid of this treaty!"

During the debate on the European Summit in Dutch national parliament, Ouwehand confronted Prime Minister Mark Rutte on European climate policy and on treaties such as the ECT. Discussions have started to ‘modernize’ the ECT, but it is expected that these discussions will do too little to prevent the ECT from harming climate policy.