Young people sue 12 European countries over treaty that aids fossil fuel investors

·2-min read
Fossil fuels are one of the earth’s major pollutants  (AP)
Fossil fuels are one of the earth’s major pollutants (AP)

Young people in Europe impacted by climate change are suing their countries for involvement in a treaty that protects fossil fuel companies.

Five people, aged between 17 and 31, directly affected by flooding, forest fires and hurricanes are going to the European Court of Human Rights to protest against their government’s involvement in the energy charter treaty (ECT).

The ECT is a relatively-secretive international agreement which allows fossil fuel companies to sue governments for lost profits from climate reforms.

This will be the first time the court, based in Strasbourg, France, will debate the treaty and the claimants are suing 12 counties for their involvement. The countries are Britain, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, all of whom are signed up to the treaty.

The claimants are arguing that membership of the ECT violates the right to life and right to respect for private and family life - articles eight and two of the European convention on human rights.

“It just can’t be that the fossil fuel industry is still more protected than our human rights,” said Julia, a 17-year-old high school student from Germany, who joined the legal challenge after floods devastated her home region of the Ahr Valley last July.

Julia, who had to flee her family home, said: “It was really scary and going through the water felt like losing the ground underneath my feet.”

During the floods last summer, a total of 222 people died in Germany and Belgium. “So that’s why I decided to join this legal action, to fight against the energy charter treaty still protecting the fuel industry,” Julia added.

The legal battle comes as the ECT comes under increasing scrutiny and has been described as a threat to the Paris agreement and climate reforms.

The treaty could allow companies to sue governments – including the UK, France and Japan – for an estimated €1.3tn (£1.1tn) until 2050 in compensation for the early closure of coal, oil and gas plants which negatively impact the environment.

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