In the case of the “people against Shell”, environmental NGOs have just won a crucial victory. The oil giant Shell will have to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) of 45% compared to 2019 by the end of 2030, decided, Wednesday, May 26, a Dutch court which delivered its verdict in a resounding case launched by a collective of environmental NGOs.
This case could set a precedent in courts around the world, where similar claims are on the rise. The NGOs at the initiative of the case thus welcomed a “Historic verdict” because, for the first time, a company is forced by the courts to align with the Paris climate agreement, signed in 2015.
The case was launched in April 2019 by Milieudefensie, the Netherlands branch of the international organization Friends of the Earth. More than 17,000 Dutch citizens have joined as a civil party. Along with six other NGOs, including Greenpeace and ActionAid in the Netherlands, Milieudefensie accused Shell of not doing enough to align with the Paris climate agreement and denounced a “Destruction of the climate” from Shell, one of the world’s largest oil companies.
The company, for its part, is already taking serious measures to support the energy transition. Shell also believes that this process is a matter of political decision-making and that there is no legal basis for the claims of NGOs.
But Milieudefensie believes that it is impossible to respect the Paris Agreement without “Big polluters like Shell” are legally forced to take such action. “The climate case against Shell is unique, because it is the first time in history that a court has been called upon to order a company to emit less CO2 by modifying its policy “, said Milieudefensie a few days before the verdict. The NGOs thus asked the Dutch justice to order Shell to reduce its CO emissions.2 45% by 2030, “In accordance with the objectives agreed in the Paris climate agreement”.
Reductions not significant enough
The Anglo-Dutch multinational announced in February that it plans to reduce – compared to 2016 – its net carbon intensity by 20% by 2030, 45% by 2035 and completely by 2050. Previously, its objectives were to decrease by 30% by 2035 and 65% by 2050.
Since the Paris agreement signed in 2015, which aims to contain the rise in temperatures below two degrees compared to the pre-industrial era, many manufacturers have committed to reducing their CO emissions.2. But they are not doing enough, say the NGOs.
“Big polluters like Shell have a huge responsibility to help fight climate change”, said the executive director of ActionAid in the Netherlands, Marit Maij, upstream of the verdict. “We hope that the judge will take this historic opportunity to hold Shell accountable for its actions and ensure that the group reduces its emissions in accordance with the Paris agreement”, she added.
In another historic case brought by the environmental organization Urgenda, in December 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ordered the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by at the end of 2020, according to Milieudefensie, creating a precedent for its action. The Netherlands, particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change as part of the country is below sea level, has pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 49% by 2030.