Little progress has been made to modernise a controversial agreement on energy investments that activists warn could derail decarbonisation efforts in Europe and across the globe, according to leaked documents.
The fifth round of negotiations on reforming the Energy Charter Treaty – an international agreement that allows energy companies to sue governments for decisions impacting their investments – took place in early June.
But attempts by the European Commission to bring the treaty in line with international climate goals have so far fallen flat, according to two leaked diplomatic cables.
“The atmosphere was constructive, but progress was limited, especially on energy issues,” reads one of the leaked diplomatic cables, which was written after a meeting the EU Council’s Working Party on Energy, where the European Commission recently gave EU countries an overview of progress made in the negotiations.
“No substantial progress was made on the definition of economic activity in the energy sector,” the cable says, referring to a section listing which types of energy infrastructure are protected under the treaty.
At the moment, that definition includes almost all energy sources, from coal to renewables. The European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the 27 EU member states, has proposed gradually reducing protection for fossil fuel investments but has seen little support from other treaty signatories.
Unanimity is required to modify the treaty, whose 54 members include countries like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which are heavily reliant on fossil fuel export revenues and have little incentive to reform.
A sixth round of negotiations to reform the Energy Charter Treaty is opening on Tuesday (6 July) by which point the European Commission hopes to have rallied more support from non-EU states, like the UK and Balkan countries.
However, support for the EU’s reform plan was close to non-existent in the last negotiation round, where only six signatories even expressed views on the Commission’s proposal.
Kazakhstan was the only country to express an official position on the EU proposal and it “openly rejected” it, the documents show.
“After two hours of negotiations, it was clear that the EU proposal did not have enough support. None of the larger contracting parties was prepared to support the EU proposal in its current form. It would be necessary to examine where the EU’s flexibility could lie,” one of the leaked cables says.