Young people sue European governments for a fossil fuel pact

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A stop sign stands in front of German utility RWE’s Neurath lignite-fired power station, west of Cologne, Germany, January 16, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

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June 21 (Reuters) – Five young people will take legal action against 12 European governments on Tuesday over an international pact that allows fossil fuel investors to sue countries for taking action to tackle climate change.

Originally developed to support investment in the energy sector in former members of the Soviet Union, the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) allows investors to sue countries for policies that hurt their investments, and has been called a barrier to climate action by activists.

The plaintiffs represent countries affected by recent climate change-related disasters, including Germany and Belgium, which suffered devastating floods last year after heavy rains that scientists say were made more likely by the climate change.

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Their lawsuit will ask the European Court of Human Rights to protect their rights by ordering governments to remove the obstacles to combating climate change created by the ECT.

The case targets Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Great Britain, which are all signatories to the TCE.

“Governments continue to put the profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of human rights. But climate change is intensifying and claiming more and more lives every day,” said Julia, a student from 17, one of the complainants, in a statement. Read more

The more than 50 signatories to the ECT are currently negotiating reforms, but countries like Spain and France have raised the possibility of EU countries leaving the deal if there is no progress in the talks.

Criticism of the treaty has intensified amid lawsuits by companies seeking compensation for fossil fuel assets. RWE (RWEG.DE) used it last year to seek compensation from the Dutch government for its plan to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, which would affect Germany’s Eemshaven power plant.

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Reporting by Juliette Portala, editing by Kate Abnett

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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