Down To Earth, a weekly newsletter from The Guardian, provided information that should distress every person hoping the climate crisis can be improved, or even moderated.
How secret courts are helping fuel the climate crisis by Damian Carrington, Environment Editor:
They are the fossil fuel industry’s “secret weapon”: private courts that enable companies to win billions of dollars from countries that choose to tackle the climate crisis by halting oil, gas and coal projects.
Some campaigners say the closed-door tribunals are the biggest threat to the Paris climate agreement. They are certainly a very big stick. The latest assessment puts the future costs to governments for ending projects being developed at up to $340bn, depending on the oil price. A separate analysis looking ahead to 2050 reckons that governments – and therefore taxpayers – could be on the hook for €1.3tn. That money is desperately needed to fund the vital transition to a clean, green world.
We know that most fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to have a hope of limiting global heating to 1.5C and avoiding the worst climate impacts. We also know that the “carbon bomb” projects planned by oil and gas companies would blow up those hopes, as set out in a recent investigation by me and my colleague Matthew Taylor. Experts say even some existing fossil fuel sites will have to be shut down.
Making that happen when fossil fuel companies and petrostates wield enormous power is hard. Adding colossal financial penalties makes defusing the carbon bombs harder still.
The latest analysis of fossil fuel ISDS cases identified 231 to date, although that is a modest estimate due to the secrecy of the corporate courts. Fossil fuel companies usually win big, with 72% of cases where the final award was disclosed going in their favour and the average payout being $600m. Cases include Canada’s TC Energy demanding US$15bn (£12bn) after US president Joe Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, while in 2021 the European energy companies RWE and Uniper launched suits against the Netherlands for billions of euros over its policy to phase out coal…
Carrington is not an alarmist. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) mentioned Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) more than 500 times in its lengthy paper Investment Treaties and Climate Change. OECD determined that from the earliest days, there have been concerns that ISDS discourages “efficient public-good regulation.”
UK based Global Justice Now warns:
Corporations and superrich investors are threatening our public services, our access to water and clean energy, and our worker, consumer, and environmental protections. Under modern trade deals, corporations can use an investment tribunal system (often known as ISDS), to challenge governments in secret for passing democratic laws which protect people and planet but threaten corporate profits.
Because of international agreements supported by Conservatives and Liberals, improvements to Canada’s environmental policies are severely restricted in 2022, despite irrefutable scientific evidence that change must happen.
Eight years ago, when he proudly unveiled the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Prime Minister Stephen Harper demonstrated that his loyalty was to multinational corporations before Canadian citizens. He said about CETA:
It will not only change the game for Canadian businesses, it will create an entirely new game.
Unfortunately, the new game meant that corporate power now exceeds that of elected governments.