four questions on France’s withdrawal from the Energy Charter Treaty

Emmanuel Macron mentioned “an important point requested by many”. France will withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty (TEC), the President of the Republic announced on Friday 21 October, after a European Council summit in Brussels. This text was considered by various authorities and specialists as too protective of fossil fuels and therefore incompatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Franceinfo returns to this retreat in four questions.

>> Climate crisis: we explain why the Energy Charter Treaty is compared to a “collective suicide”

1What is this Energy Charter Treaty?

This text was adopted in 1994 after the fall of the Soviet bloc. Objective: to offer guarantees to investors in Eastern Europe and the former USSR. By bringing together the European Union and some fifty countries, the Treaty allows companies that exploit fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) to seek compensation from a state whose decisions and regulatory environment affect them before a private arbitral tribunal. on the profitability of their investments, even when it comes to climate-friendly policies.

For example, the German energy company RWE demanded 1.4 billion euros from The Hague to compensate for its losses after the adoption of a Dutch law banning coal by 2030. Italy was ordered to pay compensation of 180 million euros to the British oil company Rockhopper, for refusing an offshore drilling permit. France has also been sued by the German company Encavis AG after the change in tariffs for the purchase of photovoltaic electricity in 2020.

Yamina Saheb, an economist who contributed to the IPCC report, the intergovernmental group of experts on climate change, listed some 146 disputes related to ECT. Two thirds of these disputes are intra-European and the amount of compensation awarded exceeds € 42 billion. “This treaty prevents states from acting [en faveur du climat]. When you are a signatory, you lose your sovereignty over climate policies “he estimated with franceinfo.

2Why is France withdrawing?

“In the moment in which we live, we must instead concentrate our investments and move faster on renewables, energy efficiency, nuclear (…) and today I look with concern at the return of the most polluting hydrocarbons and fossil fuels”Emmanuel Macron said Friday, at the end of the European Council, announcing that France’s withdrawal from the TCE will be “in line with our climate goals”.

TCE “was not compatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, as recalled by the High Council for the climate and the IPCC”, claimed Bruno Le Mairethe Minister of Economy. “We are making a strong decision, consistent with our climate commitments and our strategy to accelerate the energy transition.”, Agnès Pannier-Runacher aboundedthe Minister for Energy Transition.

Criticism against the TCE has multiplied in recent months in France. In an opinion published on 19 October, the High Council for the Climate expressed itself in favor of France’s exit from the TCE. “The coordinated withdrawal of the ECT by France and the EU Member States appears to be the least risky option to enable the achievement of climate targets and compliance with the necessary decarbonisation rates by 2030”, decides the independent body in charge of advising the government in the fight against global warming. In other words, leaving the ECT was essential for hoping to comply with the Paris climate agreement.

3What are the reactions in France?

“I am happy and proud. (…) This is the first great battle we win after the Paris Agreement”, the economist reacted Yamina SahebFriday, thanking Emmanuel Macron and Bruno Le Maire. “We would like the government to follow the recommendations of the Superior Council for the Climate “, cheered the climatologist Christophe Cassouco-author of the sixth IPCC report.

Attac France has spoken on Twitter from “victory”. The association for the taxation of financial transactions and for the action of citizens adds: “Our long-standing mobilization against the TCE, a harmful and climate-killing investment agreement, has paid off.” Greenpeace France welcomes a “Good news”. “Congratulations to all the organizations mobilized for this victory”wrote the NGO on Twitter.

Politically, La France welcomed this withdrawal. Emanuele Macron “taking France out of the European energy sector”wrote Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “So we can get out of the harmful European treaties. The rebels were right. Can we discuss this in Parliament?”, He wondered. “When liberals see that the market leads to disaster, they come to our ideas”, welcomed Mathilde Panot, president of the rebel deputies. “GREAT VICTORY for the planet against fossil companies”, exclaimed LFI MEP Manon Aubry.

4What other countries have withdrawn from the text?

France is not the first to have taken the plunge. Russia withdrew from the treaty in 2009, Italy in 2015. Others are on the same path. Poland has initiated a parliamentary procedure to withdraw from the ECT. Spain and the Netherlands have also announced they want to remove the text, while asking “a coordinated exit” from all countries of the European Union. “I hope Germany will join us”said Pascal Canfin, President of the Environment Commission of the European Parliament.

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