ISDS AT COP21: ENFORCEMENT OF CLIMATE COMMITMENTS

Globe between two pairs of clasped handsIn a speech in Paris during the COP21 summit, the president of the International Bar Association David Rivkin expressed hope that ISDS could bridge the current enforcement gap in international environmental law.

Specifically, Rivkin highlighted the role of neutral and accessible dispute resolution mechanisms in enforcing commitments and underlying pledges made by state parties to the UNFCCC negotiations. He also noted that the existence of mechanisms for resolving disputes between investors and states is crucial to incentivizing foreign investment in renewable energy.

Noting that the fiercest critics of ISDS tend to focus on the system’s purported chilling effect on a state’s regulatory ambitions, Rivkin explained that this “regulatory chill” relates to the substantive terms of the treaties rather than to ISDS procedure.

Rivkin remarked that in the “new wave” of investment treaties and agreements, “environmental issues are being considered increasingly by states at the outset of drafting investment chapters”. Today, most BITs include some environmental language, and many contain a general reservation of policy space for environmental regulation. Rivkin emphasized that a number of recent BITs have included specific obligations to promote sustainable development, to encourage trade in environmental products, or to facilitate FDI in environmental technologies or eco-labeled goods.

Commenting on these developments, Rivkin noted:

It is clear that we are entering a new era of BITs/FTAs, in which states are delineating more specific obligations in the negotiation of these agreements, both as to standards of investor protection and regulatory autonomy. As we are seeing in the context of TTIP, CETA and TPP, ‘self-calibration’ of the ISDS system is already evident. In the future we may also see more movement in the areas of state counterclaims, which would be particularly relevant for environmental claims.

Rivkin also discussed the recent report by the IBA Task Force on Climate Change Justice and Human Rights, which provides a comprehensive coverage of pro-environment clauses included in investment chapters.

Read the full speech here.