Energy Charter Treaty reform reaches milestone, with little progress to show

(EurActiv, 16 Dec 2020) A two-day conference of the 54 parties to the Energy Charter Treaty, opening on Wednesday (16 December), will attempt to move forward in reforming the little-known charter, decried by environmentalists for protecting fossil fuel investments and blocking international efforts to curb global warming.

After three negotiation rounds in 2020, national delegations have come to “a greater understanding of the topics” at hand and exchanged “initial impressions” about how to address them, according to a leaked progress report obtained by EURACTIV.

But even though some progress was made on the definition of legal concepts like “investment” or “fair and equitable treatment”, critics say talks have been stalled by the Treaty’s requirement to take decisions by unanimity.

The most controversial aspect of the reform, the revision of the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, will not be discussed at today’s conference because of opposition from Japan, according to people familiar with the matter.

The proposal “did not reach consensus among Contracting Parties,” the report said.

For the European Union, the lack of progress in the talks will come as a disappointment.

The European Commission has spearheaded calls to reform the treaty, calling it “outdated”notably when it comes to investor protection clauses, which refers potential litigations to private arbitration tribunals. Brussels has proposed instead to refer cases to a future “Multilateral Investment Court” which is currently being negotiated at the international level.

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EurActiv, 16 Dec 2020: Energy Charter Treaty reform reaches milestone, with little progress to show