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Investigation uncovers secretive court system is paying billions of public dollars to oil corporations: 'The injustice is glaringly obvious'

"This has to stop."

"This has to stop."

Photo Credit: iStock

Investor-state dispute settlement courts secretly award billions of public dollars to fossil fuel companies and private investors.  

The Guardian reported that these courts are known for being secretive and controversial, operating behind closed doors and keeping some judgments confidential. Pollution-creating fossil fuel companies are the largest beneficiaries of the settlements, primarily based on claims that government decisions affect company profits. 

What's happening?

A group of research, advocacy, and justice organizations created a tracker with a searchable archive to reveal how much public money these courts are paying to corporate perpetrators. 

"The data backs up what we've been saying for years: ISDS is the secret weapon for fossil fuel companies against climate laws," Tom Wills, director of the Trade Justice Movement, said about the courts. "Corporate courts are also used to threaten governments not to give in to popular local or national demands for climate action."

This news follows many EU countries withdrawing from an energy charter treaty that was one of the largest supports for investor-state claims. These courts have, in part, prevented nations from taking necessary climate action for decades, as suggested by a UN report. 

"The injustice is glaringly obvious: countries in the global south are the main victims of ISDS, while corporations from Europe and North America benefit," explained Fabian Flues from the organization PowerShift, per the Guardian. "It transfers public money into the hands of a few corporations and their shareholders. This has to stop. It is high time for countries everywhere to leave the treaties that include ISDS so that they can build a fair and sustainable future."

Why are investor-state courts important?

The investor-state court system hinders environmental progress related to changing temperatures and extreme weather events. 

It allows foreign investors to sue governments for exorbitant amounts of money when they expect their profits to be affected by environmental regulations. This court system prioritizes corporate gains over urgent global needs by using public money to pay polluting companies and keep them profitable. 

The secretive arbitration courts ruling on investor-state dispute settlement cases have recently been under increased public scrutiny. More nations are now withdrawing from treaties that don't support green policies rather than letting the dirty energy interests of oil and gas companies control the fate of our planet. 

What's being done about secret court rulings?

Fortunately, watchdog organizations and environmental advocacy groups are paying close attention to investor-state court rulings and publicizing their findings. 

To be an informed global citizen committed to sustainable change, you can follow news stories like this and share what you've learned with friends and family. Talk to your kids about climate issues to inspire action early on. At election time, vote for pro-climate candidates and leaders who stand against secretive court systems and polluting corporations while prioritizing sustainability. 

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