Hundreds of groups have urged the UK to leave a treaty that allows energy companies to sue states for taking action against the climate crisis.
Environmental organisations, charities and campaigners have called on the British government and other European countries to “prioritise climate policies” and to “stick to their climate commitments”.
More than 400 groups said political leaders should “therefore initiate withdrawal from the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT)” by the UN climate change conference Cop26 at the latest.
“European countries aim to be at the forefront of the climate fight, with strong climate commitments from the EU and the UK hosting Cop26,” a joint statement said.
“Yet, they are part of a treaty that protects investments in fossil fuels and allows energy companies to sue states before corporate courts for taking necessary climate action.”
It adds: “Strong scientific consensus tells us that continuing with fossil fuel exploitation is incompatible with good conditions of life on earth in only a few decades.”
The statement – signed by charities including WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – say countries “cannot have their hands tied” as they go into this year’s Cop26 conference, due to be held in Glasgow this autumn.
“Affording protection to energy sources that need to be phased out is simply incompatible with the ambitions set in the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5C,” it says.
Jean Blaylock from Global Justice Now said the Energy Charter Treaty was “designed by and for big polluters to protect their dirty investments”.
“It makes a mockery of international climate commitments in a year when the UK hosts a crucial climate summit,” she said.
“Boris Johnson and Alok Sharma need to break free of the shackles of this treaty before November if they want to make any serious progress in Glasgow towards tackling the climate crisis.”
Cornelia Maarfield from Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said: “The power and influence of fossil fuel firms must drastically reduce to make the energy transition a success, and quitting the Energy Charter Treaty is a vital step.”
A UK government spokesperson said: “The Energy Charter Treaty promotes investment in the energy sector and fosters international cooperation on energy, including in the development of renewable energy worldwide.”
They added: “We support the Treaty, and the current work to modernise it, and we will seek to ensure it helps deliver key climate change goals. These include our target to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050, and a global transition to clean energy.”