November 9, 2023
Ireland must withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty – Darren O’Rourke TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action and the Environment, Darren O’Rourke TD, has reiterated Sinn Féin’s call on government for Ireland to withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty.
 
Speaking in the Dáil today, Teachta O’Rourke said:
 
“The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is a relic of a fossil fuel past. All modernisation attempts have failed and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is a major barrier to net zero.
 
“By offering what is termed ‘investment protection’ through the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS), fossil fuel companies can sue national governments for policy decisions they take to reduce our reliance on oil, coal and gas.
 
“There have been 158 investment arbitration cases under the ECT, but these have exploded over the last 10 years. Significantly, the pay outs awarded to fossil fuel claimants tend to be disproportionately higher than for other fuel sources.
 
“The controversial ISDS is the provision that exposes ordinary workers and families to a potentially hefty financial burden via eye-watering and obscene dispute settlements between fossil fuel investors and the state. It therefore threatens to usher in a new era of regulatory chill when it comes to climate action.
 
“For example, the Dutch had a short-term energy problem as they were over reliant on gas and prices went through the roof. In 2009, they invited coal power plants into the country, and these opened in 20215 and 2016. To reach their climate targets, they recognised it was necessary to phase out these plants by 2030. In 2021, they were hit with two claims under the ECT to the tune of €2.4 billion.
 
“When Italy denied a new licence to explore offshore oil in line with legislation to facilitate the energy transition, they were issued with a bill of €190 million.
 
“And here in Ireland, Lansdowne Oil and Gas plc, a partner of Barryroe Offshore Energy, is challenging the Irish government on their decision not to grant a licence which would have been inconsistent with our climate targets.
 
“As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, a joint investigation by the Guardian, the Transnational Institute and Berlin based Powershift, made public in mid-November 2022, revealed that the ECT processes are mired in dodgy dealings.

“Opaque proceedings are coupled with inadequate controls on conflicts of interest for key personnel including arbitrators are exacerbated by what the investigators cite as a potential bias in favour of fossil fuel interests.
 
“The earth is speeding towards the catastrophic warming of our planet, rather than slowing down. According to new research released last week, the carbon budget for stopping the earth heating 1.5 degrees could run out in just six short years. Therefore, slowing down the phasing out of fossil fuel simply cannot afford to wait
 
“For this reason, Ireland must following the example of 9 other European countries who have left or have announced their exit from the ECT.

“We welcome the fact that Minister Ryan has announced the government’s intention to leave the ECT, but says they will only do so once a majority is reached. Ireland deserves better than a government who only does the right thing when their hand is forced.

“Therefore Sinn Féin is calling for the government to provide a clear exit plan including a timeline for withdrawal. Ireland deserves nothing else.”

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