Court Orders Deep Carbon Cuts for Shell

Whoa! Today a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels!

“The court orders Royal Dutch Shell, by means of its corporate policy, to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 with respect to the level of 2019 for the Shell group and the suppliers and customers of the group,” the judge said.

Including customers—people who buy gasoline and other products from Shell and burn the stuff—means that Shell has to sell less of that stuff.

This is the first time a court has ruled a company needs to reduce its carbon emissions. It was possible because a Dutch court had earlier ruled that failing to slow global warming will lead to human rights violations.

Earlier this year Shell set out one of the sector’s most ambitious climate strategies. It has a target to cut the carbon intensity of its products by at least 6% by 2023, by 20% by 2030, by 45% by 2035 and by 100% by 2050 from 2016 levels.

But the court said that Shell’s climate policy was “not concrete and is full of conditions…that’s not enough.”

“The conclusion of the court is therefore that Shell is in danger of violating its obligation to reduce. And the court will therefore issue an order upon RDS,” the judge said.

The court ordered Shell to reduce its absolute levels of carbon emissions, while Shell’s intensity-based targets could allow the company to grow its output in theory.

“This is arguably the most significant climate change related judgment yet, which emphasises that companies and not just governments may be the target of strategic litigation which seeks to drive changes in behaviour,” said Tom Cummins, dispute resolution partner at law firm Ashurst.

Shell said that it would appeal the verdict and that it has set out its plan to become a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050.

That’s a quote from here:

• Bart Meijer, Dutch court orders Shell to deepen carbon cuts in landmark ruling, Reuters, 26 May 2021.

Here’s what Friends of the Earth Netherlands said on April 5, 2019, when they brought this case against Shell:

Donald Pols, Director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands said:

“Shell’s directors still do not want to say goodbye to oil and gas. They would pull the world into the abyss. The judge can prevent this from happening”

In the court summons, Friends of the Earth Netherlands outlines why it is bringing this groundbreaking climate litigation case against Shell, highlighting the company’s early knowledge of climate change and its own role in causing it. Despite acknowledging that the fossil fuel industry has a responsibility to act on climate change, and claiming to “strongly support” the Paris Agreement, Shell continues to lobby against climate policy and to invest billions in further oil and gas extraction. This is incompatible with global climate goals.

The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, a key piece of evidence in this case, underlines the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees for the protection of ecosystems and human lives, and outlines the devastating and potentially irreversible impacts of any “extra bit of warming”.

The court summons proves that Shell’s current climate ambitions do not guarantee any emissions reductions, but would in fact contribute to a huge overshoot of 1.5 degrees of global warming. The plaintiffs argue that Shell is violating its duty of care and threatening human rights by knowingly undermining the world’s chances to stay below 1.5C.

In addition, the plaintiffs argue that Shell is violating Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to life and the right to family life. In the historic Urgenda case against the Dutch state, the Dutch Appeals court created a precedent by ruling that a failure to achieve climate goals leads to human rights violations. The court ordered the Dutch state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020.

Roger Cox, who initially represented Urgenda, is now leading Friends of the Earth’s case against Shell. Roger said:

“If successful, the uniqueness of the case would be that Shell, as one of the largest multinational corporations in the world would be legally obligated to change its business operations. We also expect that this would have an effect on other fossil fuel companies, raising the pressure on them to change.”

If successful the court case would rule that Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to zero by 2050, in line with Climate Paris Accord. This would have major implications, requiring Shell to move away from fossil fuels.

8 Responses to Court Orders Deep Carbon Cuts for Shell

  1. westy31 says:

    The stock price of Shell rose by 0.6% today, most other stocks dropped a bit. No idea why..

  2. Steven Wenner says:

    Hmm, so a Dutch court can order Shell to decrease its sales of fossil fuels not just in the Netherlands, but throughout the world?

    • John Baez says:

      I don’t know. I suppose Shell could try to legally leave the Netherlands if it’s really upset. It’s called Royal Dutch Shell, but….

      • G.J. Smeets says:

        Mr. Hyung de Zeeuw (manager sustainability of the dutch Rabobank) said that the court’s ruling is a tipping point creating a shockwave in the boardrooms of Tata Steel, Yara and many other internationally operating industrial polluters in Holland. He also said that legally leaving the Netherlands is no option for them. People & NGO’s all over the world are preparing to follow suit. Thanks to (inter)national legislation.

        Anyhow, I think it’s a good thing that Royal Dutch Shell finally gets the picture that they got lots of skin the game to loose if they don’t move with the Zeitgeist: more investment in sustainable production&consumption of energy.

  3. Rogier.Brussee says:

    Shell will almost certainly appeal although they will have to oblige right away, and the somewhat similar Urgenda case against the Dutch government held up in the highest court.

  4. Patrick Miles says:

    Shell is an Anglo-Dutch company. It will be interesting to see how this plays in a British court, if it ever gets there, we now being outside the EU legal system (well that was the plan).

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