Fossil fuels, case against the agreements at the European Court of Human Rights

Five people between 17 and 31 years old presented a ‘legal action at the European Court of Human Rightsto force European governments to withdraw from Energy carda treaty that protects energy companies active in the fossil fuel sector. The five climate activists come from different regions of Europe, affected in recent years by fires, floods or hurricanes.

The Energy Charter (Tce) is a agreement that allows fossil fuel companies to bring governments to court, in case their environmental protection policies decrease their profits. For example, thanks to this agreement, the German energy company Rwe is suing the Netherlands for its decarbonisation plans, demanding a compensation of 1.4 billion euros. For the same mechanism, the British mining company Rockhopper exploration has denounced the Italian government for banning new drilling near the coast.

It is the first time that the European Court of Human Rights has been questioned on the treatywhich includes about 55 countries, including European states, the United Kingdom and Japan, as revealed a whistleblower al Guardian. Indeed, thanks to the TCE, all fossil fuel companies can sue governments for early shutdown or reduction in production of coal, oil or gas plants.

The lawsuit came just as 76 climate experts sent an open letter to European leadersin which they state how continuing to protect fossil fuel companies according to the rules of the TCE would effectively prevent the closure of the most polluting plants and it would take away vast resources needed to support the ecological transition to clean energy.

“In both cases, the Union’s climate neutrality objective and the European Green Deal will be jeopardized”, reads the letter, reported by Guardian, which calls on the current French presidency of the Union to swiftly get member countries out of the treaty. In the next few days, the members of the TCe will meet to negotiate an update of the treaty, signed in 1994.

The European Commission has proposed a path gradual elimination of the Tce protectionsto arrive at its cancellation by 2040. However, according to activists and experts, the deadline indicated by the commission would be too far to have a real effect and the proposed reductions would be too light. “The options discussed are too weak to make the ECT compatible with the Paris Agreement or with Union law “, declared al Guardian Cornelia Maarfield, Trade and Investment Policy Coordinator of the Climate Action Network Europe.

Meanwhile, the governments of France, Germany, Poland and Spain have already commissioned to study how the Union could withdraw from the TCeas reported by Euractiv. However, the leaders of the TCE continue to argue that the agreement does not support the fossil fuel sector, but protects the rule of law of investors. A thesis contested by activists, for whom a withdrawal clause would be included within the TCEtherefore, the exit from the treaty would be absolutely legal and even simple.

It is not possible that the fossil fuel industry is even more protected than our human rights“, declared al Guardian Julia, a 17-year-old German student, who joined the group of plaintiffs after losing her home following the floods that hit the Ahr region last July, which killed 222 people.

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