How corporate courts block climate action
Photo: Garry Knight / public domain

Global Justice Now | March 2021

How corporate courts block climate action

Imagine a world where fossil fuel giants and other transnational corporations don’t have to follow the same laws as everyone else, but instead have their own corporate courts, where the law is tailored to their interests. Not courts where the companies are put on trial, but where corporations sue governments for huge sums of money and bully countries to get their own way.

It sounds like dystopian science fiction, but corporate courts are real. Also known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), these special privileges are granted to transnational companies by rules in trade and investment deals.

Corporate courts have enabled corporations to sue countries for doing almost anything they don’t like – banning toxic chemicals, introducing a sugary drinks tax, anti-smoking policies,capping water rates, raising the minimum wage - you name it. They have long been used to oppose environmental protections. Now that we are finally seeing more governments around the world begin to take long needed action to tackle the climate crisis, we are seeing more and more corporate court cases challenging those actions:

•• RWE, an energy company, is suing the Netherlands over the phase out of coal-fired power stations, while another energy company, Uniper, is threatening to do the same.

•• Ascent Resources, a UK fossil fuel company, is about to sue Slovenia for requiring an environmental impact assessment on fracking plans.

•• Rockhopper, a UK fossil fuel company, is suing Italy over a ban on offshore oil drilling close to the coast.

•• Lone Pine, a fossil fuel company, is suing Canada over the introduction of a fracking moratorium in Quebec.

•• Westmoreland, a mining company, is suing Canada over a phase out of coal-fired power stations in Alberta

Corporate courts are an unjust mechanism that can block climate action. The UK should reject them.

Read more (pdf)