380+ civil society organisations demand world governments quit ISDS
A person with a phone in front of the COP27 logo

380+ civil society organisations demand world governments quit ISDS

Date: 15 November 2022
Campaigns: Climate, Trade

Sharm El-Sheikh, 14 November 2022 – More than 380 civil society organisations from over 60 countries across the world, including 350.org, Oxfam International and Friends of the Earth, are calling on governments to put an end to a system of secretive tribunals which threaten global climate goals.

The system is known as investor-state dispute settlement or ISDS, and is included in many trade and investment agreements. ISDS empowers transnational corporations to sue governments in secretive tribunals outside of the national legal system, over law and policy changes that they fear could reduce their profits. Often the amounts involved can be hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, and are far higher than would be available in domestic courts.

Fossil fuel corporations are already suing over coal phase-out, the cancellation of a tar sands oil pipeline, a ban on offshore oil drilling, and fracking regulation. Industry insiders themselves expect these cases may be only a foretaste, given the scale of fossil fuel ‘stranded assets’.(1)

This year’s IPCC report from climate scientists was clear that ISDS risks blocking the phase-out of fossil fuels.(2) Following last year’s UN climate conference COP26, governments acknowledged that they had not joined climate initiatives or had set climate less ambitious climate targets goals to avoid the risk of being sued under ISDS. [3]

The finance industry is promoting ISDS at the current COP27,[4] but organisations from around the world say it is a threat to climate action in a new statement:

“We must urgently get rid of the ISDS system. The evidence of years of damage to the environment, land, health and self-determination of peoples all around the world is stark, and the renewed urgency of the climate imperative is beyond doubt. Reform proposals are weak, ineffective and totally inadequate for what is needed. Governments must take immediate action to put an end to the risks of ISDS. 

“We know this can be done because some countries have started doing so. Countries such as South Africa, India, New Zealand, Bolivia, Tanzania, Canada and the US have all taken steps toward getting rid of ISDS. It’s time to get off the fence and put people and the planet first.”

Dipti Bhatnagar from Friends of the Earth International said:

“It is scandalous that an African country can still be sued by a foreign corporation for trying to protect the climate. Governments at COP27 must put an end to this shady system of secret investment tribunals. The Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism lets corporations steal the funds that we so urgently need to tackle the impacts of climate change and pursue a just energy transition in Africa.”

Rachmi Hertanti from Transnational Institute said:

“The massive increase in demand for raw materials that are critical for the green transition is pushing ever more investment into extractive industries, especially in countries in the global south. Multinational companies will arm themselves with ISDS, and it is obvious there will be an increase in ISDS lawsuits. We need to reclaim the democratic space and stop this expansion, driven by trade agreements.”

Arie Kurniawaty from Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia said:

“ISDS is a legacy of colonialism. It is fundamentally in violation of the principles of women’s right, gender justice and people’s sovereignty. It can make it impossible for governments to introduce new laws intended to lessen the gender pay gap.”

The groups are calling for governments to scrap existing deals with ISDS, stop negotiating new ones and explore alternatives instead.


The statement is online in EnglishArabicSpanishFrenchPortuguese and German

The key risks from ISDS for tackling the climate crisis are:

  • Increasing the cost of climate action
  • Regulatory ‘chill’, where the fear of being sued causes countries to delay or decide against taking action that is needed on climate.

The organisations signing the statement include:

  • Global groups such as 350.org, Oxfam International, Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), and Emmaus International
  • Other international groups such as Acción por la Biodiversidad, Akina Mama wa Afrika, CAN Europe, European Coordination Via Campesina, PSI Americas, Pacific Network on Globalisation, Plataforma América Latina mejor sin TLC


1. AFP, “Governments risk ‘trillions’ in fossil fuel climate litigation” France 24, 2021

2. IPCC, Climate change 2022: mitigation of climate change, 2022, p14-72 & p14-81

3. Elizabeth Meager, “Cop26 targets pushed back under threat of being sued” Capital Monitor, 2022

4. GFANZ, Sharm El Sheikh guidebook for just financing, 2022

Press contacts

  • Frances Leach, Global Justice Now media manager, [email protected]
  • Madeleine Race, Friends of the Earth International communications officer, madeleine[at]foei.org
  • Leah Sullivan, War on Want, [email protected] 

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Photo: Rafapress/Shutterstock