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Dutch court orders Shell to reduce carbon emissions by 45% in 10 years

Published June 7, 2021

Dutch court orders Shell to reduce carbon emissions by 45% in 10 years

A court in The Hague has ruled that Shell must reduce its carbon emissions by 45% within 10 years. The ruling is the first to hold a corporation liable for causing climate change.

The main plaintiffs, Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Greenpeace, believe the verdict has huge potential consequences for Shell and other high carbon emitting companies.

Roger Cox, lawyer for Friends of the Earth Netherlands, 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.”

According to The Guardian newspaper, the court found Shell’s current sustainability policy to be insufficiently “concrete”. The Anglo-Dutch company was told it should bring the level of emission reductions into line with the Paris climate agreement. This applies not only to the company’s own operations, but also to its suppliers and buyers.

The ruling may have major ramifications internationally. Sara Shaw, from Friends of the Earth International, said: “Our hope is that this verdict will trigger a wave of climate litigation against big polluters, to force them to stop extracting and burning fossil fuels. This result is a win for communities everywhere who face devastating climate impacts now.”

Jeremy Nicholson, Alfa Energy’s corporate affairs officer, said: “This ground-breaking ruling ratchets up the legal risk of not addressing carbon emissions for these companies. It may also impact on whether institutional investors want to have anything to do with future flotations in the sector. This is now part of the climate in which publicly traded energy businesses must operate. There are a number of legal routes to enforce unexpected consequences of international climate legislation and businesses need to be aware of those risks.”