We're changing the system.

Trade enriches our lives and lifts people out of poverty, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of the environment. Trade rules currently favour economic interests over environmental ones.

Over 3000 global trade agreements include a controversial mechanism that investors can use to pressure governments that introduce environmental and climate measures like phasing out fossil fuels or introducing carbon taxes.

We work to maximise the potential of trade rules to protect the environment.

What we're doing

The rules that govern how trade is conducted can play a key role in ensuring that the trade system is transparent and just. However, trade rules currently favour economic interests over environmental ones. We use our legal expertise to:

  1. Strengthening environmental commitments in international trade agreements

    We are monitoring the UK’s approach to international trade post-Brexit to ensure it does not threaten environmental law in the UK. We are pushing for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement negotiations to consider and adequately address potential environmental and social impacts.

  2. Increasing transparency and good governance within trade negotiations

    We help citizens become more involved in trade matters through litigation, advocacy, legal research and engaging stakeholders.

  3. Removing investor-state dispute mechanisms (ISDS) from trade agreements

    ISDS allows big corporations to sue governments whose environmental policies may affect their investment – for example, if a government decides to phase-out coal - directly before private tribunals. ISDS cases can lead to governments paying hundreds of millions of euros in compensation for legitimate regulatory change. The threat of legal action can discourage governments to take positive environmental action. We’re pushing to remove ISDS from trade agreements.

  4. Ending the Energy Charter Treaty

    The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is an international investment agreement that covers the trade and transit of energy between states and protects foreign investments in the energy sector. We raise awareness about the dangers of the Energy Charter Treaty among members of the European Parliament, EU governments, and European Commission officials. Without a complete overhaul of the current system, the ECT will not help speed up the transition to clean energy, and will risk undermining climate action.

  5. Calling for new legislation on mandatory due diligence

    We want to see the adoption of a new legislation that will require companies to prevent, identify and mitigate their human rights and environmental impacts throughout their supply chain.

What we’ve achieved

We supported local communities in Croatia and Romania affected by investment disputes (relating to the construction, respectively, of a golf course and an open pit gold mine) to ensure their voices were heard.

The European Ombudsman has opened an inquiry into the EU Commission’s trade agreement with the ‘Mercosur’ group of South American countries, following a complaint we submitted together with several NGOs. We allege the Commission failed to fully consider the potential social, economic or environmental impacts when conducting the trade negotiations.

We participate in the meetings of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in Vienna and New York, advocating on the importance of aligning ISDS reforms with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement objectives.

We work to drive behavioural change of key stakeholders in EU trade policy and increase awareness of environmental issues
Amandine Van Den Berghe , Lawyer, Value Chains, Trade & Investment