Fossil Fuel Companies Want Governments To Pay $18 Billion For Bringing In Laws Tackling The Climate Crisis Largely Caused By Fossil Fuel Companies

from the corporate-sovereignty-at-work dept

Back in 2013, Techdirt started writing about the boring-sounding Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system. It was so boring, we decide to use a better term for it: corporate sovereignty. It’s an appropriate name, since this system of secret courts effectively places companies above a government, by allowing them to sue a nation if the latter takes actions or brings in laws that might adversely affect their profits. It was originally designed to protect companies that invested in unstable parts of the world, and to discourage things like expropriation by corrupt officials. But clever lawyers soon realized it was much more general than that, and could be used as a weapon against even the most powerful — and stable — nations.

It allows deep-pocketed companies — typically multinational corporations — to threaten governments with big fines if they pass laws or make decisions that aren’t to the companies’ liking. That includes actions that are clearly justified and in the interests of the country’s citizens. For example, over the years Techdirt has written about how corporate sovereignty was used to threaten governments that wanted to protect public health, even measures to tackle COVID-19.

In 2015, this blog warned that the TAFTA/TTIP trade agreement under discussion then would allow companies to challenge actions taken to protect the environment, such as bringing in laws to tackle the climate crisis. TAFTA/TTIP never happened, so fossil fuel companies have now turned to other treaties to demand over $18 billion as “compensation” for the potential loss of future profits as a result of recent decisions taken around the world to tackle climate change. Global Justice Now has a summary:

Five fossil fuel companies are suing governments for more than $18bn for taking climate action that could harm their profits, new figures reveal, as protestors demand an end to secretive corporate courts.

TC Energy, RWE, Uniper, Rockhopper, and Ascent are suing governments through investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a shadowy system of corporate courts that operates outside of a country’s domestic legal system as it is built into trade and investment deals.

Four of the five cases are under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), an energy investment agreement that includes ISDS, which the UK and EU are signed up to. TC Energy’s case against the US government is under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The $18bn (?13bn) demanded by just five companies is almost equivalent to the entire net annual climate funding provided by rich countries to the developing world, which Oxfam assesses as $19-22bn.

As that last paragraph points out, if the companies are successful — by no means guaranteed, but entirely possible, given the nature of the special ISDS courts — the money needed to pay companies would amount to the the entire annual climate funding provided to the developing world. It seems a bit rich that these companies should not only make huge profits from selling fossil fuels that are largely responsible for our climate crisis, but also want to be paid serious money for being forced to stop. But that’s corporate sovereignty for you; it’s clearly time to get rid of it.

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Companies: ascent, rockhopper, rwe, tc energy, uniper

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Comments on “Fossil Fuel Companies Want Governments To Pay $18 Billion For Bringing In Laws Tackling The Climate Crisis Largely Caused By Fossil Fuel Companies”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I expect nothing less for them to blame others.

Except this is an outright admission of guilt.

By suing the various world governments over the laws they passed because "It harms their profits" these companies are admitting the laws were

A. Effective deterrents, i.e. Not able to just sweep it under the rug as a cost of doing business.

B. The suing companies were in fact profiting off of the very behavior that the new laws prohibited.

C. The suing companies believe that they are entitled to said profits damn be the consequences to the entire world. I.e. Even if the entire world suffers under their profiteering, these companies believe that they are entitled to tell the 8+ Billion of the rest of us to fuck off and keep the money flowing their way regardless.

Yet more proof the invisible hand is really the invisible middle finger. Such behavior is beyond egregious and should be curtailed by every nation and society.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I expect nothing less for them to blame others.

Except this is an outright admission of guilt.

One problem there…. these shadow courts don’t allow admissions of corporate guilt. In fact, by the very nature of being accused, the only guilt is predetermined to be that of the government/defendant.

The only problem now is, can they sue before an actual loss has been suffered. I"d bet "Yes", but then someone is going to be taking several pages from the Official Book Of Hollywood Accounting, and running one or more entire nations into the ground. If it ever gets that far, I’m certain that most of the world’s nations will see the writing on the wall ("Hey, that could happen to us!"), and put a stop to the practice forever.

What might be really rich is that I’ve never seen any enforcement powers built into the ISDS – what’s to stop a country from telling the corp to "eat shit and bark at the moon". IOW, who holds the country’s feet to fire for breaking an onerous, one-sided and unjust agreement?

ECA (profile) says:

And who said what?

As in
‘We Told ya so’.
And you did it anyway.

The USA gov. already pays out for oil exploration.
And even now the prices are STUPID to buy fuel.
1970 price at the pump was $0.35 per gallon, Crude price was about $30
1973 Price was $1.25 Crude price was $60
(already looks strange??)
1980 Still under $2 Crude price hit $130
2021 Almost $4, Crude price $74

Just a point to make, There are 1000’s of products made using oil. the profit margin is HUGE.
1 article suggested that the USA made over 8 billion in export Oil, and then Made another 8 billion after importing oil to the USA.
But we seem to be depending on person that can buy a NEW top of the line car every 6 months of so.

What do we consider profit, and FAIR profit margin. The process of making fuel makes and equal amount to the barrel it comes in, and then whats left is process from Plastics to resins, to Tar and 1000 other things. There is a loss of less then 1%, the process makes over a 100/1 for the barrel size, in all these products. And they make their money back Just making the Fuel. Everything else is Pure profit.
Most of the oil mined in the USA, tends to be exported, not used in the USA. So this seems to be a Round Robbin affect. We dont use ours, we sell it to make profit to buy up oil from others.

Efficiency sucks, As we get better Efficiency, they get to raise prices, and make more profit.

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Cdaragorn (profile) says:

ISDS is crap but that doesn't excuse this

fossil fuels that are largely responsible for our climate crisis

Stating facts not in evidence.

Now I get that a lot of people are going to hate me for saying this. Please understand that I am not saying this out of anger. I’m ok with disagreeing with all of you on things like this. I say this because I have studied the evidence that is repeatedly presented for this and I honestly feel this describes it. I am not ok letting people make this kind of statement as if it was absolute proven fact.

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Baron von Robber says:

Re: ISDS is crap but that doesn't excuse this

"Stating facts not in evidence"

Except for the thousands of science articles over the past 50 years pointing to the facts that fossil fuels are largely responsible for our climate crisis.

Google Scholar is your friend.

Now, fossil fuel industries have been pushing the intent of doubt (like you do here). There’s even a documentary on this called, Merchants of Doubt.

The same group that tried to put doubt on smoking/cancer, also creates manufactured doubts for climate change.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Baron von Robber says:

Re: Re: ISDS is crap but that doesn't excuse this

And you just run the logic.

Is CO2 are a green house gas? Yes, that was discovered over 100 years ago.
What is oil? Another name is hydrocarbon. Lots of carbon molecules in oil
What is the most common isotope of CO2 in our air? The one that comes from fossil fuels.
How much has CO2 been increasing? Check it out.
How much has the earth been heating? Check it out..yea, kind of matches the CO2 increase.

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MathFox says:

Re: ISDS is crap but that doesn't excuse this

OK, I’ll provide a quote from the IPCC itself:

The report also shows that human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate. The evidence is clear that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change, even as other greenhouse gases and air pollutants also affect the climate.

“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” said Zhai.

I assume that should be enough evidence to rely on for the writer of the article.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: ISDS is crap but that doesn't excuse this

Every single prediction, EVERY SINGLE ONE, by the Climate Alarmists, has been wrong. You would think they’d get ONE right by now. But no, they’ve made lots of predictions and gotten them all wrong.

Even the climate alarmists are coming out and going "yeah, we lied to you for years" now.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Ah corporate sovereignty, like using a chainsaw to deal with a paper-cut by removing the finger to the extent that it addresses a problem said problem would solve itself and the solution is vastly worse.

Corporate sovereignty clauses should never have been added to any agreements or treaties but since they were the best solution now is to rip them out wherever they may be found and if the companies who bank on being able to threaten entire gorram countries don’t like it then too damn bad, it was a power they never should have had from the start.

Bruce C. says:


Don’t pay blackmail.

Even if the governments pay out, the corporations are going to raise prices and blame the government for added expense regardless. Call their bluff. The higher fossil fuel prices go, the better for the climate, as long as new extraction is zeroed out or limited to plastics and lubricants.

In fact, maybe a punitive carbon tax to pay for any compensation awarded to these clowns.

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