Today, a panel of judges from a lower court in The Hague ruled that the company’s policies on the matter were too vague.
He said the reduction was to take place by 2030.
The lawsuit was filed by the environmental organization Friends of the Earth Netherlands for the changes (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), alongside other major charities and thousands of co-complainants.
The case is unique in that no compensation is requested from the company. Instead, for the first time in history, Shell is being asked to issue a policy change.
“This is great news for all of us, ourselves and our children,” a Milieudefensie spokesperson told Euronews Green.
“Shell will adjust its policy so that it also emits less CO2 in real time. It is not for the judge to say how Shell should do this, but the company will not be able to continue pumping as much oil and gas as it currently does.
“Even if Shell decides to appeal, the decision will lead to more cases around the world and politicians and oil and gas companies will feel the pressure to change course.”
There were tears of joy off the court from the Milieudefensie team.
“This statement will change the world,” said Roger Cox, lawyer for Milieudefensie.
“People all over the world are ready to sue the oil companies in their own countries, following our example.
“And not just that. Oil companies will become much more reluctant to invest in fossil fuels, polluting fuels. The climate has won today. ”
However, for the Dutch-British company, the decision is only legally binding in the Netherlands.
Lawsuit against Shell
Today’s verdict comes after Milieudefensie started to build the business in 2018 – with six other organizations, including Greenpeace, and more than 17,000 co-applicants. The first hearings started in The Hague in December 2020.
“Shell is the biggest polluter in the Netherlands. The company emits nine times more CO2 than the whole of the Netherlands combined. Shell has known since the 1960s that the use of oil and gas is harmful to the climate, ”the organization said in a statement. .
According to Milieudefensie, only 4% of all Shell investments go to sustainable energy. According to experts from the environmental organization, Shell has a responsibility not to harm both society and the climate.
Since Shell itself does not accept this responsibility, Milieudefensie, together with its co-plaintiffs, has decided to take the matter to court.
“We are seeing that Shell does not change on its own and continues to cause dangerous climate change,” Nine de Pater, campaign manager for Climate Case Shell, told Euronews Green.
“After trying many different ways to get Shell to go a greener route, the only option we had left was to force them through a judge. Shell must now comply.
“The problem of the climate crisis is too big to wait for the big polluters to do something. Shell is responsible for causing dangerous climate change, and as long as Shell does, we will continue our fight against it.
“The science is very clear on this: CO2 emissions must be reduced and there is no more room for new oil and gas projects,” adds de Pater.
Andy Palmen, acting director of Greenpeace Netherlands, called today’s decision a “historic victory” after the verdict was announced.
“Shell cannot continue to violate human rights and profit people and the planet,” he said.
“This verdict is a clear signal to the fossil fuel industry. Coal, oil and gas must stay in the ground. All over the world, people are calling for climate justice.
“Today the court confirmed that the fossil fuel industry cannot continue to pollute the climate. We can hold multinationals around the world accountable for the climate crisis. ”
Urgenda against the Dutch government
The Netherlands is lagging behind on climate protection, with the country’s CO2 emissions exceeding Paris Agreement targets.
Although Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been in office since 2010, three Rutte cabinets have made little progress on environmental legislation. This lack of action led to a successful climate lawsuit against the government in 2013, by the environmental organization Urgenda Foundation.
Urgenda sued the state government in 2013 to force them to reduce CO2 emissions in the country. They demanded that the government reduce CO2 emissions by 25% by 2020 from 1990 levels.
In 2015, Urgenda won the dispute with a decision seen as a historic milestone.
The Dutch government appealed several times until finally, at the end of 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands also ruled in favor of Urgenda.
After seven years of litigation, these judges also ruled that climate change is a threat to the population and that the state must protect its citizens to reduce CO2 emissions as quickly as possible.
“The Urgenda process is a source of inspiration for many climate processes around the world and for us too,” says de Pater.
“We are convinced that everyone must do their part. But especially the big polluters like Shell. The Urgenda process showed that it was possible to force climate action through a judge. ”