Investment treaties are an important component of the framework governing the conditions for foreign investment in many countries. About 2500 such treaties are in force today, including investment provisions of trade agreements. Many of them were designed decades ago with a different global economy and concerns in mind. There is growing interest in particular in reshaping investment treaties to address the climate crisis.
The OECD work programme on the Future of Investment Treaties, launched in March 2021, explores how the investment treaties could help address these challenges and how to deal with existing agreements in a pragmatic way. Meeting today’s challenges requires vast amounts of sustainable international and domestic investment. Poorly designed investment treaties may impede progress, while well-designed treaties can help societies meet those challenges.
The OECD is convening governments, stakeholders and experts from OECD and non-OECD countries to examine new trends and developments in treaty designs and the interaction of investment treaties with climate change. The work encompasses discussions in two separate but complementary tracks.
Track 1 focuses on the alignment of investment treaties with the 2015 Paris Agreement and net zero. The work extends to a wide range of aspects including: choices with regard to what investment is promoted and protected; the role of investment treaties in providing a framework to support market openness and facilitate climate-friendly investment; the impact of investment treaties on government policy space for climate action; the range of procedures and remedies used in implementing treaties; and examining which issues may be best addressed in treaties, and which may be better suited for regulation through domestic law, international guidance or other tools.
Track 2 considers how specific substantive provisions have developed from older generation treaties to current designs. Newer treaties have been designed in light of ISDS experience to better achieve government intent and objectives. However, the vast majority of older treaties do not have these features. Governments meeting at the OECD are considering whether it would be better if substantive provisions featured in older generation treaties were more similar to recent designs now more consistently adopted, and how a transition could be achieved in a pragmatic way.
OECD work on the Future of Investment Treaties and reform complements ongoing work at UNCITRAL, UNCTAD and the WTO.
Investment treaties and climate change: Alignment with the Paris Agreement
The overriding importance of confronting the climate crisis forms a core part of the OECD work programme on the Future of Investment treaties.
Upcoming and recent events
January 2024: Outcomes of the first-ever Survey on Climate Policies for Investment Treaties. The survey casts light on the steps governments are taking, or considering, to align their investment treaty networks with the Paris Agreement and net zero objectives. See an overview of the results, a Secretariat note summarising the responses and the complete survey questions.
11 March 2024: Supporting the global energy transition – Methods to align investment treaties with the Paris Agreement (9th annual OECD Investment Treaty Conference) – register now.
The 2024 Conference addressing methods for alignment will build on prior work including the 2023 and 2022 OECD Conferences:
Public consultation on investment treaties and climate change
The OECD conducted a public consultation in 2022 with a view to helping government policy makers respond to the climate change in their investment treaty policies, including alternative or complementary policies, with the benefit of a broad range of inputs.
Track 1: Investment treaties, climate change and alignment with the Paris Agreement
Secretariat note on Investment treaties and climate change: The alignment of finance flows under the Paris Agreement
Track 2: Reflections on whether and how to modernise existing investment treaties
Fair and equitable treatment: Research note – Summary of discussions (12 April/27 June 2023) - Research note (Considerations on means to improve outcomes of designs of “fair and equitable” treatment clauses in investment treaties)
Directions for work under Track 2 – priorities, scoping and sequencing of work: Work programme (7 November 2023)
The next edition of the OECD Conference on Investment Treaties will take place on 11 March 2024. The conference contributes to ongoing government-led work on investment treaties and climate change at the OECD.
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