Energy & environment

Most investor-state disputes (ISDS) have concerned environmental matters. Corporations are using the ISDS system found in trade and investment agreements to challenge environmental policies. As of end of 2019, 41% of all ICSID cases were energy and natural resources-related.

Most well-known cases include:

• Lone Pine Resources (US) vs. Canada: the investor challenged Quebec’s moratorium on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas. The provincial government declared the moratorium in 2011 so as to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the extraction method widely accused of leaching chemicals and gases into groundwater and the air. Case pending (NAFTA invoked).

• Bilcon (US) vs. Canada: the US industry challenged Canadian environmental requirements affecting their plans to open a basalt quarry and a marine terminal in Nova Scotia. In 2015 the ISDS tribunal decided that the government’s decision hindered the investors’ expectations. Bilcon won and received US$7 million in damages, plus interest (NAFTA invoked).

• Vattenfall (Sweden) vs. Germany: in 2007 the Swedish energy corporation was granted a provisional permit to build a coal-fired power plant near the city of Hamburg. In an effort to protect the Elbe river from the waste waters dumped from the plant, environmental restrictions were added before the final approval of its construction. The investor initiated a dispute, arguing it would make the project unviable. The case was ultimately settled in 2011, with the city of Hamburg agreeing to the lowering of environmental standards (ECT invoked).

Photo: Kris Krug / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

(March 2020)

CIEL | 16-Mar-2016
The Canadian company’s Angostura mining project in the high-altitude wetlands, or páramo, of Santurbán, has announced that it could file an international arbitration suit against Colombia over measures to protect the páramo, which are important sources of water in the country.
Basta! | 14-Mar-2016
Nul besoin d’envoyer canonnières ou porte-avions pour intimider un Etat qui menacerait les intérêts des puissantes compagnies occidentales. Il existe un discret mécanisme pour régler les litiges entre États et investisseurs : l’ « ISDS ».
Alternautas | 13-Mar-2016
The Oxy II awards subvert the notion of sovereignty: by whom and how a country’s natural resources are used becomes a minor question as long as wealth is maximised.
Rabble | 10-Mar-2016
More than 2,000 people marched in Lima, Peru in opposition to the government’s plan to privatize public water services.
Asia One | 4-Mar-2016
Singapore has moved quickly to sign an investment treaty with oil-rich Iran to support Singapore firms investing in an economy that is emerging after the recent lifting of global sanctions.
Le Monde | 3-Mar-2016
Depuis de nombreuses années, les institutions internationales affirment qu’un « soutien mutuel » entre commerce et climat est possible. Mais l’entreprise multinationale du secteur énergétique Transcanada vient d’ébranler quelque peu cette croyance.
South Centre | 1-Mar-2016
In African countries, the expansion of international investment agreements could carry significant risks to policy space and policy tools necessary for industrialization and development.
Amigos de la Tierra | 25-Feb-2016
La demanda de la empresa TransCanada por 15.000 millones de dólares demuestra la amenaza del TTIP a la democracia y el medio ambiente
Reuters | 25-Feb-2016
Venezuela llegó a un acuerdo para buscar una solución a un prolongado conflicto por arbitraje con la minera canadiense Gold Reserve, que reclama una indemnización de 750 millones de dólares tras el abrupto fin de una concesión que mantuvo en el país sudamericano hasta 2009.

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