Less than 1 in 10 of UK public believe UK should remain in Energy Charter Treaty

Less than 1 in 10 of UK public believe UK should remain in Energy Charter Treaty

Date: 1 September 2023
Campaigns: Climate, Trade

Energy Bill due to be debated on Sept 5 has amendment tabled which challenges UK’s membership in energy charter treaty

LESS than one in ten (9 per cent) of the UK public believe the UK should remain in the Energy Charter Treaty, according to new polling from campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. This comes as the UK Government today announced it will be reviewing its membership of the Energy Charter Treaty.

The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is an international agreement between 50 countries that fossil fuel companies are using to sue countries over their climate action. It contains a mechanism called investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, which enables companies to sue states in secret courts outside of national legal systems, when the company believes its profits could be affected by government policies or parliamentary decisions.

The UK is facing widespread calls to exit the ECT as climate experts, civil society and even the UK government’s own advisors have highlighted how it has been used to delay vital climate action and trigger mammoth taxpayer funded payouts to fossil fuel companies. Just last year, a corporate tribunal ordered the Italian government to pay more than £210m to the UK oil company Rockhopper as compensation for an offshore oil drilling ban.

Citing similar risks, eleven countries including Germany, France, the Netherlands and Ireland have decided to exit the treaty, with the European Commission proposing a coordinated EU withdrawal in July.

Research has shown that staying in the ECT places the UK at risk of potential ECT compensation claims totaling $5.3 billion and suggests that the UK could benefit the most from ECT termination.

The polling, carried out by Yonder Consulting and commissioned by UK based campaigning organisation Global Justice Now, also found:

  • Almost three in four (74 per cent) of the UK public think it is a problem if the Energy Charter Treaty clashes with government policies, parliamentary decisions and climate goals
  • Almost 3 in 5 (58 per cent) think the Energy Charter Treaty is outdated
  • Only 17 per cent think it is okay for private companies to sue the UK government through private international courts rather than British courts

These findings come as the Energy Bill is set to be debated once more in the House of Commons this week (Sept 5), to which the former chair of the government’s Net Zero Review and Conservative MP Chris Skidmore has tabled an amendment on a UK withdrawal from the ECT.

This puts fresh pressure on the UK government, especially following the European Commission’s recent announcement formally recommending a whole-EU exit from the pact.


Cleodie Rickard, trade campaign manager at Global Justice Now, said:

“The UK government must immediately take the opportunity to exit the climate-wrecking Energy Charter Treaty, as its own former net zero tsar lays out an exit ramp in this week’s Energy Bill reading. With low levels of public support in the UK, a cascade of other major economies out the door, and the government’s own advisors sounding the alarm on its huge risks, it is staggering that it is even up for debate.

“The ECT is outdated and allows foreign fossil fuel companies to overturn the democratic decisions we must make as a country to urgently address the climate crisis. The UK quite literally cannot afford to let fossil fuel companies hold us to ransom and keep this straitjacket on our ability to act as the planet burns.”

Notes to editors

  1. Global Justice Now is a UK-based campaigning organisation for social and environmental justice.
  2. Poll of 2074 UK adults, online fieldwork between the 25th and 26th of August 2023. Conducted by Yonder Consulting on behalf of Global Justice Now. Results are weighted to be nationally representative. Data available on request.