Dutch Court rules Shell responsible for carbon emissions, orders oil giant to cut CO2 by 45 percent

*The interest served with the reduction obligation outweighs the Shell group’s commercial interests, says Judge Larisa Alwin

*We are investing billions of Dollars in low-carbon energy, including electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, renewables and biofuels…. We will continue to focus on these efforts and fully expect to appeal today’s disappointing court decision, says Shell Spokesperson

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Stressing the international oil company is responsible for its own carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and those of its suppliers and attendant pollution, a court in The Netherlands has ruled in a landmark case that the Royal Dutch Shell must reduce its global carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

The Dutch court Wednesday, May 26, 2021, ruled that by 2030, Shell must cut its CO2 emissions by 45 percent, compared to 2019 levels, agency report said.

The plaintiffs led by Friends of the Earth, Netherlands, also known as Milieudefensie, had file the suit against the company for apparently breaching provisions on consumers’  right to life and the right to family life – by causing a danger to others while damaging the ecosystem.

 

ConsumerConnect reports carbon emissions are polluting substances as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, produced by motor vehicles and industrial processes and forming pollutants in the atmosphere.

The global oil giant lost the landmark Dutch legal case brought by environmental campaigners, Friends of the Earth, and over 17,000 co-plaintiffs as the court ruled that company must cut its greenhouse gas emissions more aggressively than it had originally planned.

Observers said the ruling is the first of its kind for transnational oil firms already under pressure from governments, environmental activists and civil rights groups.

The court ruled that Shell group is responsible for its own CO2 emissions and those of its suppliers, according to report.

It was learnt the Anglo-Dutch company was told it has a duty of care and that the level of emission reductions of Shell and its suppliers and buyers should be brought into line with the Paris climate agreement.

The oil giant’s sustainability policy was found to be insufficiently “concrete” by the Dutch court in an unprecedented ruling that will have wide implications for the energy industry and other polluting multinationals.

Judge Larisa Alwin said Shell must “at once” reduce its CO2 output.

Alwin stated that the ruling would have “far-reaching consequences” for the company, and may “curb the potential growth of the Shell group”.

“The interest served with the reduction obligation outweighs the Shell group’s commercial interests.”

In view of Wednesday’s landmark ruling against the oil firm, Roger Cox, lawyer for Friends of the Earth, Netherlands, also known as Milieudefensie, called on organisations across the world to “pick up the gauntlet”, and take legal action to force multinationals to play their full part in tackling the climate emergency.

Cox said: “This is a turning point in history. This case is unique because it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting corporation to comply with the Paris climate agreement.

“This ruling may also have major consequences for other big polluters.”

Donald Pols, Director of Milieudefensie, also described the decision as “a monumental victory”.

Bas Eickhout, a Green MEP on the European parliament’s Environment Committee, said: “This ruling is really good news for the climate. It increases the pressure on large polluters and helps us in Europe to tighten climate policy for them as well.

“They can no longer escape the climate crisis: the international climate targets must also apply to them.”

It was claimed that Shell was breaching article 6:162 of the Dutch civil code and violating articles 2 and 8 of the European convention on human rights – the right to life and the right to family life – by causing a danger to others when alternative measures could be taken.

The court ruled that there were indeed obligations under both Dutch law and the convention and that the company had known for “a long time” about the damage of carbon emissions.

While the company had not acted unlawfully, the court said it had established that there would be an “imminent violation of the reduction obligation”.

It added that company’s “policy intentions and ambitions for the Shell group largely amount to rather intangible, undefined and non-binding plans for the long-term”.

However, despite the court ruling, Shell reportedly disclosed that it would appeal the judgment.

The oil company is regarded as the ninth biggest polluter in the world in 1988-2015, according to the Carbon Majors database.

While an appeal against the ruling could last two years, lawyer for Friends of the Earth nonetheless, said he hoped the company’s executives and shareholders would act in the meantime.

A Shell spokesperson was quoted to have said: “Urgent action is needed on climate change which is why we have accelerated our efforts to become a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050, in step with society, with short-term targets to track our progress.

“We are investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy, including electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, renewables and biofuels.”

The company’s Spokesperson noted: “We want to grow demand for these products and scale up our new energy businesses even more quickly.

“We will continue to focus on these efforts and fully expect to appeal today’s disappointing court decision.”

Shell had said February 2021, that it would accelerate the transition of its business to net-zero emissions, including targets to reduce the carbon intensity of energy products by 6-8% by 2023, 20% by 2030, 45% by 2035 and 100% by 2050.

But lawyers for the plaintiffs successfully argued that the company had been aware for decades of the dangerous consequences of CO2 emissions and its targets remained insufficiently robust.

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