EU votes to leave energy treaty as green rules pushed through

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EU votes to leave energy treaty as green rules pushed through

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EU lawmakers voted overwhelmingly for the bloc to exit a controversial international treaty that is seen by campaigners as protecting fossil fuel investments, in a series of positive votes on green legislation.

The ballots on critical planks of the EU’s ambitious climate legislation at the last session of the parliament before June elections were held in the face of an increasing challenge from a variety of political, industry and vested interest groups.

The EU in 2019 set the task of Europe becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent, prompting complaints from political opponents and industry groups that the bloc was suffocating under legislative red tape.

The victory for climate advocates came in the 560-43 vote on Wednesday that the bloc should leave the Energy Charter Treaty.

The treaty owes its inception to European countries that wanted to protect investments in the former Soviet Union at the end of the cold war but more recently has been used by energy companies to challenge governments over changes in legislation linked to climate change.

Several EU governments, including the Netherlands and Italy, have been sued by fossil fuel companies under the treaty for putting in place green legislation that they say undermines their investments.

The vote was “historic”, said Lukas Schaugg, international law analyst at the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

“Fossil fuel investors have used the ECT to challenge government climate measures through investor-state dispute settlement more frequently than any other investment treaty,” he said.

Other votes on environmental matters scraped through by a narrower margin, and after being weakened during negotiations between the parliament and member states, but were ultimately also successful.

A ballot on rules that will force companies to act on human rights and environmental abuses in their supply chains, known as the corporate sustainability due diligence directive, was passed by 374 to 235.

Another piece of contentious legislation on packaging waste was passed with 476 votes in favour and 129 against. The packaging law was only approved after the European Commission promised an additional assessment on single-use plastic wrapping and film for transportation, which it had previously decreed must become fully reusable by 2030.

A revision that sets stricter targets for air pollution in the EU was also passed, though with only 381 of the parliament’s 705 lawmakers voting in its favour.

Anaïs Berthier, head of the legal non-profit group ClientEarth’s Brussels office, said that getting the final legislation “over the line” had come at “significant cost” to its original ambition.

“But what is important now is applying [the rules] and ensuring that they result in real action on the ground.”

EU member states will have to give final approval to all the pieces of legislation before they can pass into law.

But Philippe Lamberts, co-leader of the Greens, said in the chamber that he feared the EU’s Green Deal was at “very high” risk of being killed off in a future parliament by far-right groups expected to gain seats in the elections.

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