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17 September 2021

Five fossil fuel companies are suing governments for more than $18bn

Firms are taking legal action after their profits were affected by climate policies.

By Nicu Calcea

Five fossil fuel firms are suing governments in Europe and the US for more than $18.1bn after their profits were affected by climate change policies, research by Global Justice Now shows. The biggest of these lawsuits has been filed by the Canadian giant TC Energy, which operates much of the energy infrastructure in North America. The company is asking for $15bn as retribution for Joe Biden’s decision to revoke the Keystone XL pipeline permit.


German companies RWE and Uniper are both suing the Dutch government in response to the country’s plan to phase out coal, while British firm Rockhopper is suing Italy for a ban on offshore oil drilling near the coast, and Ascent is suing Slovenia for introducing new requirements for fracking.

The majority of these cases are being arbitrated under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), an archaic agreement created to integrate the Soviet energy sector that now covers some €344.6bn worth of fossil infrastructure in the EU, the UK and Switzerland alone. 

Global Justice Now campaigner Jean Blaylock told Sky News: “[Fossil fuel firms] are suing governments who take climate action through secretive corporate courts, massively increasing the cost of climate action. These courts are built into trade deals and operate outside of and supersede domestic courts and legal systems.” 

Amid concern that the ECT will further slow climate action, European politicians and campaigners are increasingly asking for the treaty to be modernised or scrapped

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