Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, February 4th 2021 – press release published with Urgewlad.
The German energy utility RWE is suing the Netherlands for its mandatory coal phase-out by 2030, seeking €1.4 billion in compensation on the basis of the controversial Energy Charter Treaty. In December 2019, the Dutch state had issued a coal phase-out, which would force RWE to stop burning coal in its Eemshaven power plant by the end of the decade. The environmental and human rights organisations Urgewald and Reclaim Finance call on RWE to withdraw the lawsuit and are asking investors to divest RWE for its repeated anti-climate action lobbying efforts.
“Europe’s biggest CO2-emitter is suing the Netherlands for taking the most basic steps to align with the Paris Agreement by exiting coal. If anyone was waiting for the final proof that RWE is the opposite of a climate leader, this is it. Many financial institutions have already expressed their concerns regarding companies’ use of the ECT to prevent or delay effective climate action. Financial institutions such as Barclays, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank must immediately dump RWE, once and for all,” says Lucie Pinson, director of Reclaim Finance.
“RWE is taking its own advertising campaign, in which the company presents itself as the driver of the energy transition, to absurd extremes”, comments Sebastian Rötters, Energy Campaigner with Urgewald. “Such lawsuits based on the Energy Charter Treaty are particularly perfidious attempts to stifle effective measures to combat the climate crisis.”
The Energy Charter Treaty allows companies to sue states before non-transparent arbitration tribunals if they fear losses in investments due to national legislation. The treaty thus paves the way for expensive investor-state dispute settlement proceedings against governments that want to step up their efforts to combat climate change.
“In 2015, RWE already knew that the commissioning of the Eemshaven coal plant was an act of flagrant irresponsibility against the backdrop of the advancing climate crisis and with regulations on the horizon. The fact that the company is now suing an EU member state for its attempt to comply with the Paris Agreement, is a slap in the face of taxpayers, who may be forced to pay for RWE’s ignorant investment decisions. RWE, one of Europe’s biggest CO2 emitters, is stylising itself as a victim, while cashing in on its own climate inaction,” Rötters continued.
RWE presents itself to investors and the public with a corporate strategy that is supposedly in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The lawsuit now filed, however, reveals once again that the company wants to hold on to coal for as long as possible and is actively lobbying against climate protection measures.
At the same time, RWE is still clinging on to running more than 3,000 MW of lignite power capacity in Germany until 2038. The associated dismantling of further villages in the Rhineland has been faced with massive protests from local and international groups, such as All Villages Remain and several Fridays for Future chapters.
Investors must see this as the final straw and should demand that RWE withdraw its lawsuit and phase out coal by 2030 at the very latest. Otherwise, any investment in RWE is nothing more than a bet against climate protection and against democracy.