The 1994 Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) was designed to promote inter-governmental cooperation in the energy sector and to boost investment in coal plants and pipelines.
However, the treaty impedes the EU's efforts to phase out carbon-emitting utilities.
Private companies can, and do, sue governments if they believe environmental legislation will weaken their future profits or investments. For example, the German energy group RWE is suing the Dutch government for €1.4 billion in 'compensation' for the Dutch decision to phase out coal by 2030. Spain has faced dozens of litigation cases after carrying out wide-ranging energy reforms. Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Latvia have also faced legal action under the treaty.
The ECT has more than 50 member countries, including the EU bloc. Italy, which withdrew from the agreement in 2016, is the only member to have done so.
An open letter signed by hundreds of scientists and climate leaders called the treaty a "major obstacle to implementation of the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal.”
You can sign a petition to EU governments to withdraw from the ECT, here.