Two days ahead of Uniper’s AGM, Dutch state asks German court to review legal basis for compensation claims

  • Uniper uses Energy Charter Treaty to stifle measures to combat climate crisis
  • Energy utility’s fossil gas strategy incompatible with UN Climate Agreement
  • Supply chain deals reveal weak Human Rights standards

Today, the Dutch government announced it was asking a German court whether the arbitration cases brought forward by RWE and Uniper have a legal basis. The two German utilities had recently filed compensation claims under the Energy Charter Treaty framework (ECT) against the Dutch state for its coal phase-out. The Netherlands’ announcement comes two days ahead of Uniper’s annual general meeting.
„The ministry is of the opinion that the Coal Prohibition Act has been carefully drawn up and is the result of thorough democratic decision-making, in which all interests have been carefully weighed. […] Given long-term developments, owners of coal-fired production installations could assume that government measures would eventually be taken to reduce CO2 emissions. In addition, the law only prohibits the use of coal as a fuel in production installations that generate electricity. Other uses of the production installations are possible,” the statement issued by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy reads.

Sebastian Rötters, Energy Campaigner with Urgewald, said:
“Such lawsuits based on the Energy Charter Treaty are particularly perfidious attempts to stifle effective measures to combat the climate crisis. The fact that Uniper and RWE are 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 the companies’ ignorant investment decisions. It is reassuring to see that the Netherlands are standing up to these anti-climate lobbying tactics.”
Uniper’s coal-fired power plant in question, Maasvlakte 3 in Rotterdam, was commissioned in 2016. It came online five months after the Dutch parliament had first called for a nationwide phase-out of coal-fired power plants and four months after the Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015. Recent research by SOMO, IEEFA and Ember shows that average power generation by the Maasvlakte 3 plant has been decreasing over the past three years, while profits have plummeted since 2018. The plant is expected to no longer be economically viable by 2024 at the latest.
Two days ahead of Uniper’s annual general meeting, Bart-Jaap Verbeek, Researcher at SOMO, said:
„Uniper could have foreseen this scenario years ago, yet it willingly decided to open a brand-new coal plant in 2016. The company is now saddled with unprofitable, stranded assets, which it seeks to shift to Dutch taxpayers by using the Energy Charter Treaty. This sets a dangerous precedent and may impede similar fossil fuel phase-out strategies elsewhere as governments are now wary of introducing climate policy measures for fear of being sued.“

Aside from its use of the controversial arbitration framework to seek compensation for old coal assets, Uniper’s current strategy is not aligned with the Paris Agreement and turns a blind eye to Human Rights violations in its fossil fuel supply-chains.

  • Uniper is one of the five financiers for Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, which is intended to transport fossil gas from the Russian Yamal peninsula through the Baltic Sea to Germany. The pipeline will have a disastrous impact on the climate. Furthermore, the gas extraction in the Yamal region is already harming the Nenets Indigenous People.
  • Uniper has closed a long-term supply contract with the Canadian company Pieridae Energy. Pieridae is planning to open the new Goldboro LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminal on Canada’s east coast that will rely on gas extracted with especially harmful fracking technology. Pieridae just recently attempted to intimidate activists with legal threats following revelations regarding its climate-damaging LNG operations and their need for public funding
  • Uniper also has a long-term supply contract for the remote offshore Scarborough gas fields in Australia. These are part of the Burrup Hub project, a gas infrastructure development that would cause four times more CO2 emissions than the highly contested Adani Carmichael mine.
  • Uniper started purchasing up to 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from the state-owned Azerbaijani group SOCAR at the end of 2020 and intends to source pipeline gas from Azerbaijan until 2045. SOCAR has been involved in war propaganda and was just excluded as sponsor by the UEFA.
  • Uniper is keeping up its coal-supply contracts with the Colombian coal mining company Drummond, even though top-level Drummond managers have been charged with financing paramilitaries by the Colombian Prosecutor General in December 2020.

Roetters concluded: “Climate, environment and Human Rights take a back seat at Uniper when it comes to making business. It is Fortum’s responsibility to change this immediately. Investors should raise their voice at Uniper’s upcoming annual general meeting and demand an urgent change of course.”


Sebastian Roetters, Energy Campaigner, Urgewald: sebastian[at]

Bart-Jaap Verbeek, Researcher, SOMO: B.Verbeek[at]

Permanent link to this article: