Bridging the Climate Change Policy Gap

BLoggIt is clear that to fight climate change, we need to scale up green investment both in terms of amount and geographical reach. However, climate change law, in this case the United Nations Conference Framework on Climate Change and the recently-signed Paris Agreement, do not specifically include terms to promote and protect investment. This is a policy gap.

The SCC, together with the International Bar Association, the International Chamber of Commerce and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, took an initiative to discuss this gap by organising a conference, Bridging the Climate Change Policy Gap: The Role of International Law and Arbitration, in Stockholm on 21 November.

It is noted during the conference that around USD 100 billion in investment over the next fifteen years is needed to combat climate change – a target that is considered achievable. Another speaker emphasised that there is no shortage of capital to address climate change. The challenge is how to get investors to actually invest and how to match the capital with the green investments.

It appeared to be a consensus among the speakers that good policy is key to attracting sustainable investments. Policy needs to be long-term and stable. Short-term policies, often associated with government’s turnover, caused bad impacts, from high transaction costs to the fact that the industry had to fire and re-hire employees depending on how policy is.

A panel of lawyers discussed how litigation has been used to fight climate change, directly and indirectly. Among other things, renewable energy investors have resorted to international arbitration to bring a claim against government for unstable policies and revocation of incentives. Another case being discussed in depth was Urgenda Foundation v. the Netherlands where a Dutch district court ruled that the government has breached its duty of care to its citizens by not doing enough to address climate change.

It may be foreseen that these types of cases, both in domestic and international fora, will propel the right type of government actions.

A report from the conference with more details will be published soon.

 

Case Summary: Pac Rim Cayman LLC v El Salvador

Inside of salt mine shoot on corridorOur next case summary is Pac Rim Cayman LLC v. El Salvador and the summary is prepared based on the award rendered in October 2016.

The claim was brought based on the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and El Salvadoran Investment Law.

The investor held an exploration permit for a largely-underground gold mining site in Eldorado and further applied for an exploitation permit.  The dispute arose from the government’s refusal to grant exploitation license, which, according to the investor, amounted to several breaches of El Salvadoran Investment Law.

Meanwhile, the state based its refusal on the failure of the investor to obtain either ownership rights to all of the surface land in the concession area, or authorisations from all relevant landowners, as required under the Mining Law.

The tribunal decided to hear the claims under El Salvadoran law, which was allowed under the ICSID Convention, after it ruled that it did not have jurisdiction under the CAFTA.

The tribunal sided with the state and disagreed with the investor’s interpretation of the Mining Law which would not require authorisations from surface-level landowners if the activity does not involve surface-level land. According to the tribunal, the mining might pose environmental risks to surface landowners. Therefore, the investor’s interpretation was disproportionate to the risks.

In conclusion, the tribunal found that the investor did not comply with the requirement under the Mining Law to be granted an exploitation permit and therefore the government did not have any obligation to grant such permit to the investor.

The investor was also ordered to pay the majority of the state’s costs in the proceedings.

See other case summaries involving the mining industry here.

 

Just published: Analysis of EU’s ”Investment Court System”

Chicago downtown skyscrapers looking upThe American Bar Association (ABA) is a leading organization in international legal debate. On 14 October, the ABA Task Force on investment law published a report on the EU’s proposal for an “Investment Court System” (ICS). We wrote about ICS when the proposal was first presented.

The authors of the report, a number of American lawyers who have previously expressed different individual perceptions of ISDS, pointed out that they do not take a position on the different views on the legitimacy of the system and the need for reform. Instead, the report focuses more specifically on the EU’s ICS proposal, which is also included in the CETA. The report examines whether the ICS will achieve the objectives that the EU have set itself: is ICS neutral, effective and predictable? Is the proposal practical, effective and feasible?

The short answer is “maybe”. The report identifies a number of aspects where the ICS proposal can be improved to achieve the stated objectives. First is that there is a risk that the proposal will lead to less diversity among the judges who will decide on future disputes. The report recommends that it should be expressly stated that diversity (in terms of geography, legal background and gender) should be sought in the nominations of the judges.

Another significant weakness identified in the report is the enforcement of judgments. There is a risk that ICS judgement might not be able to be enforced outside states that signed the agreement, since ICS is not considered to be arbitration, but rather a quasi-judicial process. The ICSID Convention and the New York Convention might not be applicable in this case which means that the ability to have the judgment enforced globally might sharply deteriorate. As we have written before, the possibility of getting arbitration awards enforced worldwide is one of the most important reasons why arbitration has largely replaced litigation in international trade.

The third concern raised in the report is the imbalance between the parties in dispute. ICS proposal entails the fact that state parties can influence the proceeding, including by changing the court’s procedural rules with binding effect during the proceeding and also when the EU replaces a Member State as a respondent. According to the report, this means an imbalanced proceeding, to the investor’s disadvantage.

Host states’ legitimate expectation

Scenic landscapes of Northern ArgentinaThe investor’s legitimate expectations are often a key question in ISDS cases. Such expectations can be based on, for example, the host state’s laws, policies, or contractual commitments – such as when a host state granted the investor mining rights for a certain number of years. A violation of these expectations can be a ground for the investor to bring an ISDS claim against the host government. Several tribunals have ruled that a host country cannot act contrary to the investor’s legistimate expectations.

Karl P. Sauvant and GüneşÜnüvar have written an article published by Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment, introducing the question of whether or not states can also have legitimate expectations towards the foreign investor. According to the article, such expectations may arise from, for instance, the investor’s statements of its contribution to the host country.

As an example, the article points to Sempra v Argentina, where Argentina argued that it “had many expectations in respect of the investment that were not met or otherwise frustrated … (such as)… work diligently and in good faith…”. The article also notes, however, that since governments currently cannot initiate ISDS proceedings against foreign investors, their reliance on legitimate expectations is limited to counterclaims brought in response to investors’ claims. See our previous post about counterclaims here.

Finally, the article proposes that future international investment agreements (IIAs) could explicitly stipulate that host states’ legitimate expectations are protected, thereby establishing a right for host states to bring a claim on this basis.

Vattenfall v. Germany live stream

Blogg_v41_2In the much-publicised ICSID case between Vattenfall and Germany, the main hearing is currently taking place. The parties have agreed to broadcast the hearing live and those who are interested in ISDS can follow this link to see what a hearing looks like. The broadcast starts at 19.00 CET, every night this week and the next.

Just published: Peter Allard v. Canada

Blogg_v41A much-anticipated award is now released for public, Peter A. Allard v Barbados.

As we have written before, a Canadian investor, Peter Allard, brought a claim against Barbados in Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2010. The case concerned Mr Allard’s environmental sanctuary in coastal Barbados. He grounded his claim on the failure of the government of Barbados to enforce its own environmental law which, as a result, has polluted his sanctuary.

The investor claimed that the government’s failure amounted to violation of Canada – Barbados Bilateral Investment Treaty.

In an award rendered in June 2016, the tribunal rejected the investor’s claim on all grounds.

The tribunal disagreed with the investor that Barbados has failed to accord him full protection and security by failing to prevent pollution from coming to the sanctuary. As a departing point, the tribunal asserted that the obligation of the State to provide the investment with full protection and security standard is of ”due diligence” and ”reasonable care” – not of strict liability.

In this case, the tribunal found that Barbadian officials have taken reasonable steps to protect the sanctuary. Among others, the tribunal pointed out that the officials established a committee tasked with developing plans for preservation of the sanctuary.

The claim of expropriation was also dismissed. The tribunal concluded that there was no substantial deprivation of the investment since the investor remains the owner of the sanctuary and operates a cafe there. The tribunal further referred to the investor’s statement during the hearing that ”there is some kind of business remaining there”.

Meanwhile, Simon Lester, a trade policy analyst for Cato Institute, argues that the case sends an important signal for environmental protection. According to him, the legal standard in BIT may pave the way for future cases that environmentalists could help investors bring against governments who may do too little to protect the environment. An example mentioned is if the impact of climate change, for instance rising sea level, caused damage to an investor’s property.

Practical guide: information about ISDS

Books close up are on the tableIt could be difficult to get an overview of what happens in the ISDS world. This is because the international nature of this field and the fact that it lacks centralized information system. However, things are happening fast – new arbitral awards are rendered and states are concluding and terminating international investment agreements (IIAs)

We offer some practical guides to ISDS through the following sources.

 

Free services:

Italaw

The website, which has been around for a long time, publishes arbitral awards and other documents from ISDS proceedings. Researchers at the University of Victoria are managing the website. If you search for a particular ISDS dispute on the internet, it is often that Italaw comes first, which may indicate that the website has been visited a lot.

UNCTAD

The website of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development provides user-friendly search functions for both arbitral awards and IIAs that contain ISDS as dispute settlement mechanism. In addition, it publishes reports on new updates and statistics on IIAs and ISDS.

PluriCourts Investment Treaty Arbitration Database (PITAD)

PITAD is a database project of all known ISDS cases, currently under construction by the University of Oslo. The database can be accessed via a request to the responsible researchers.  The researchers behind the project takes empirical approach and uses coded variables to classify hundreds of well-known arbitral awards.

ICSID and PCA

ICSID administers most ISDS cases and automatically publishes information about them (as long as the parties do not actively object to it). PCA, on the other hand, publishes information with the consent of the parties. Both organizations have searchable databases.

 

Service with paid subscription

Investment Arbitrator Reporter

This website publishes news and information about ISDS. IAReporter engages in ongoing investigative reporting, which leads to their reporting on many cases, awards and developments that are otherwise confidential. IAReporter also offers in-depth summaries and analysis of awards and decisions, which could be helpful for those who do not want to read the hundred-pages awards. In principle, one must pay for subscription, however IAReporter also provides free trials and discounts for those who cannot gain access otherwise.

Global Arbitration Review

This publication primarily targets legal practitioners in the arbitration field – but often publishes interesting interviews and summaries of proceedings for those interested in learning more about the practical sides of ISDS work.

Combating Climate Change through ISDS

White lily in an environment of green leaves on waterAn article demonstrates how ISDS provides the necessary tools to improve regulatory stability and predictability necessary for low-carbon investment. According to the author, ISDS has the potential to protect low-carbon investments against the risk of regulatory changes that can affect climate policies.

The text takes its starting point at the importance of private capital and technology in the transition to a low-carbon economy. The Kyoto Protocol establishes different implementation mechanisms for State parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mechanisms in which private actors play important roles. In turn, governments may also establish different support schemes for investment in low-carbon technology. Some of the common schemes are guaranteed a minimum price for electricity produced by renewable resources (the so-called feed-in tariff) and investment aid for renewable energy producers.

The article points out some risks for low-carbon investment, including that authorities could withdraw the promised support or shorten its duration.

It further argues that some substantive protections under international investment agreements may play an important role.

One example is the ISDS case, Nykomb v. Latvia. In this case, the tribunal found that the government provided support scheme for low-carbon installations operated by domestic investors, but not for installations operated by foreign investors. The tribunal held that this amounted to discrimination, and the investor obtained compensation.

The article concludes that climate law and investment law are based on comparable principles but having different perspectives. Climate law creates rights and expectations for investors, while investment law aims to protect them. In turn, investment arbitration has the potential to limit the instability that currently affects the implementation of climate change mitigation policies.

Examples of national courts acting in ISDS

Blogg_v35

National courts play important roles in safeguarding the rule-of-law outcome of ISDS proceedings. Under the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, a party to an ISDS proceeding may request a national court to set aside an arbitral award. This can be done however on limited grounds, among others, if one of the parties was unable to present its case and if the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties. In addition, arbitration laws of a country also may provide grounds for setting aside an award.

Let’s take a look when this actually happened in practice.

In CME Czech Republic v Czech Republic, the tribunal found that the country’s media authority had destroyed the investor’s exclusive position as services provider for a private Czech TV channel, which left the company with assets but without business. In this case, the tribunal sided with the investor that the actions constituted an expropriation under the Netherlands – the Czech Republic Bilateral Investment Treaty.

The Czech Republic further requested the Svea Court of Appeal in Sweden to set aside the award under the Swedish Arbitration Act, on the grounds that, among others, one of the arbitrators had been excluded from the deliberations and that the award violated Swedish public policy. The Court of Appeal rejected this claim and found that the tribunal had given the arbitrators reasonable time to submit comments. Further, the Court viewed that the Czech Republic had failed to show that the award violated public policy. The Court therefore rejected the request on all grounds.

Meanwhile, in Metalclad v. Mexico, the tribunal found a violation of Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement since the investor was denied fair and equitable treatment by the government due to the absence of clear rules about a certain permit. According to the tribunal, this amounted to a failure by the government to ensure transparency for the investor.

Mexico submitted a request to the British Columbia Supreme Court in Canada to set aside the award, on the grounds that the tribunal had incorrectly considered that transparency requirement formed part of minimum standard of treatment and expropriation provisions of Chapter 11 of the NAFTA. The Court agreed with Mexico and ruled that the tribunal had decided a matter beyond its jurisdiction. The award was therefore partly set aside the award.

Philip Morris v. Uruguay

Blogg_v34Our next case summary is Philip Morris v. Uruguay. This summary is prepared based on the publicly-available award rendered in July 2016.

The case reminds us of the one between Philip Morris and Australia. In both cases, Philip Morris claimed that their investment had lost value due to a new tobacco legislation and therefore the company is entitled to compensation.

The case against Australia was dismissed at an early stage, when the tribunal held that Philip Morris unlawfully took advantage of a subsidiary in order to get access to ISDS. Therefore, the tribunal did not examine the main issue of the case, which was the tobacco legislation itself. Meanwhile, the dispute with Uruguay went all the way to the assessment of the measure in dispute, and the majority of the tribunal found that the Uruguayan tobacco legislation did not violate the bilateral investment treaty between Switzerland and Uruguay (BIT).

Philip Morris based its arguments on two main parts of the Uruguayan legislation: first was the decision by the country’s Ministry of Health that bans selling different types of presentations of the same brand of cigarettes (it is not allowed to sell a product that is ”light”, ”menthol” or ”gold”). The second is a presidential decision which requires that the images of health warning on cigarette package increase from 50% to 80%.

The company argued that these measures violated several provisions in the BIT, including a violation of its intellectual property rights.

In the 300-page award, the tribunal asserted that intellectual property rights are indeed protected by the BIT – however it did not find that the state violated the agreement as the company failed to prove that it had suffered a level of damage required to find violation. Further, according to the tribunal, the state has a large policy space to implement reforms aiming to protect legitimate interest – and therefore this type of measure cannot be considered an expropriation or a breach of the fair and equitable treatment standard of protection as long as they are made on rational grounds and in good faith. It found that Uruguay had a genuine interest in protecting public health – and that the government adopted the reforms in a serious and well-motivated manner.

Another argument by Philip Morris was that it was denied a fair trial in the Uruguayan courts, where the company had first tried to appeal the tobacco measures. The company claimed that two different instances of court system in the country had ruled contrary to each other. In this case, even though the Supreme Court sided with the company, an administrative court chose ignore the Supreme Court and rejected the company’s appeal. The tribunal agreed that this was strange but at the same time viewed that this fact was not enough to consider that Philip Morris had been denied a fair trial.

Because Philip Morris’ claims were dismissed on its entirety, the company was ordered to pay the entire cost of the dispute, as well as 70% of Uruguay’s legal fees.