Dutch court rules that Shell must deeply cut total emissions

In a promising new development in the field of climate change litigation, a Dutch court has ruled that Shell’s climate change mitigation plan was insufficient:

The company must slash its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, according to a judgment from a district court in The Hague on Wednesday. That includes emissions from its own operations and from the energy products it sells.

The Anglo-Dutch company announced plans in September to become a net zero emissions company by 2050, a target that includes emissions from its products. It is currently targeting a 20% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030, and 45% by 2035.

The last part is hugely important and impressive, given how governments usually treat emissions from exported fuel as someone else’s problem. This is a legal recognition that controlling climate change requires limiting the production of fossil fuels.

8 thoughts on “Dutch court rules that Shell must deeply cut total emissions”

  1. Dutch court rules oil giant Shell must cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 in landmark case

    The landmark ruling comes at a time when the world’s largest corporate emitters are under immense pressure to set short, medium and long-term emissions targets that are consistent with the Paris Agreement.

    A spokesperson for Shell said the company “fully expect to appeal today’s disappointing court decision.”

    Roger Cox, a lawyer for environmental activists in the case, said in a statement that the ruling marked “a turning point in history” and could have major consequences for other big polluters.

  2. The Dutch court said that Shell’s declared plan for reducing its carbon emissions was vague, inadequate and non-binding, and ordered it to cut its total emissions by almost half in the next nine and a half years. That includes the emissions from all the oil and gas Shell sells, not just its own operational emissions.

    The judge based her decision on the fact that Shell is violating Dutch law and the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee the ‘right to life’. The company is recklessly making emissions that endanger human life by causing global heating.

    She linked her verdict directly to the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, which clearly states that keeping the increase in average global temperature below 1.5°C requires 45% emissions cuts by 2030.

    Shell’s vague promise to make 20% cuts by then simply didn’t meet the requirement, she said, and its non-binding promises of bigger cuts between 2030 and 2050 would come too late to matter. (The World Meteorological Organisation said last week that there is a 40% chance of the world temporarily crossing the +1.5°C threshold at least once in the next five years.)

    It was Friends of the Earth (and 17,000 co-plaintiffs) that brought the case in the Hague, but other activists are planning similar cases in half a dozen other countries. Even faster moving, perhaps, are the shareholder revolts that are forcing oil companies to take their emissions seriously.


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