Royal Dutch Shell has lost a marked Dutch legal case brought by environmental activists on Wednesday, with the court saying the oil company must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions more aggressively than it had anticipated.
Judge Larisa Alwin of The Hague District Court said that by 2030, Shell’s net carbon emissions needed to be 45 percent lower than 2019 levels, a decision she added. it would have “far-reaching consequences” for the Anglo-Dutch company.
The ruling followed a legal campaign led by Milieudefensie, the Dutch wing of Friends of the Earth, and which included thousands of local citizens.
Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, described the decision as “a monumental victory”.
Shell said he “would fully expect to appeal the court’s disappointing decision.”
However, the ruling could set a precedent for similar cases against the world’s largest corporate polluters they could now face. processes and be required to review their business models.
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Shell had said it reduces the carbon intensity of fossil fuels it has produced and sold by 6% by 2023, 20% by 2030 and 45% by 2035 compared to 2016 levels. The targets are part of its ambition to become a zero-emission net company by 2050. Carbon intensity is a measure of the carbon per megajoule of energy sold, rather than an absolute measure of the carbon emitted.
Judge Alwin said his decision would require “a policy change” from Shell that could “curb the potential growth of the Shell group.”
“The interest served with the reduction obligation outweighs the commercial interests of the Shell group,” he added.
Climate struggles against fossil fuel companies have gained momentum in recent years. Until now, it has largely focused on liability processes, requiring corporations to pay damages for past behavior.
The legal case against Shell comes as more activists have launched so-called human rights-based cases – those that want to radically change a company’s strategy and potentially disrupt its business model.
While rival BP has set targets for a reduction in fossil fuel production, Shell has refused to take similar steps saying such moves will be arbitrary and fail to take into account the still robust demand for fossil fuels.
Although the company has said it will invest billions of dollars in low-carbon energy, including recharging electric vehicles, hydrogen, renewable energy and biofuels, Shell stressed that it will only move “in step with the society “.
Shell argued that government policy and consumer behavior should change first rather than the producers leading the charge.
In response to this point, the judge said in his decision Shell “must do more than monitor developments in society and respect regulation in the countries where the Shell group operates.”
While acknowledging that Shell “cannot solve this global problem alone” the judge said this does not “absolve” society of its individual responsibility to curb emissions “that can control and influence”.
The judge added that Shell “has total freedom to honor its reduction obligation as it appears.”
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