What Shell feared at their headquarters in The Hague became reality on Wednesday 26 May. Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands won their climate case against Shell, backed by 17,000 co-plaintiffs from across the country and over one million supporters around the world.
The full text of the verdict is available here, and below are Friends of the Earth Netherlands’s key points from the verdict:
1) Shell must reduce its Co2 emissions
Shell must reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2019.
2) Shell is responsible for both corporate and consumer CO2 emissions
This means that if Shell wants to continue to operate as an energy company, it must do its utmost to offer greener alternatives to both suppliers and consumers.
3) Shell has an enormous influence on the supply and demand of fossil fuels
Shell CEO Ben van Beurden has stated: ‘I will pump up everything I can to meet consumer demand’. We have argued that Shell has an enormous influence on consumer demand. This is because consumers aren’t necessarily demanding oil or gas, but simply a way to get from A to B. The court has ruled in our favour. So Shell must use its influence to offer consumers more sustainable choices. Shell can no longer simply be a follower; it must lead the way.
4) The court didn’t recognise our co-plaintiffs
We brought this case on behalf of 6 co-plaintiff organisations and some 17,000 co-plaintiffs. The court, however, ruled that the ActionAid and 17,000 co-plaintiffs were inadmissible. The court argued that individual co-claimants can only be admissible if their interests go unrepresented. Since the interests of the individual co-claimants were represented by the admissible organisations, the individual co-claimants themselves were declared inadmissible. That does not alter the fact that the co-plaintiffs remain very important to us: it is in part because of them that we were able to pursue this case. Nevertheless, it ultimately didn’t matter because the consequences of the court’s ruling produce the same crucial benefits for those 17,000 co-plaintiffs (not to mention the rest of the world’s population). We are still discussing whether we will appeal this part of the decision.
5) Shell is required to respect human rights
During the hearings in December 2020, we argued before the court that Shell is violating basic human rights – for example, the right to life and a secure family life. The court agreed with us. Because Shell is a major cause of catastrophic climate change, it puts people’s lives at risk. And this cannot be easily undone.
6) Shell itself is responsible, not the government
Shell argued in court that it is primarily a task of the government to draft rules and regulations that must prevent further climate change. Shell expressed a willingness to comply with these regulations. But the court ruled that Shell must accept its own responsibility and that it is about time that Shell assumed this responsibility.
7) Everything that applies to the rest of the world also applies to Shell
The whole world must start reducing CO2, and Shell – a company with an enormous capacity to reduce these emissions – is no exception here.
8) Other companies must also take action
In court, Shell continued to claim that if it were to withdraw from Nigeria, for example, other companies would simply leap in to replace it and thus its departure would have no effect on CO2 emissions. The court disagreed and stated that other companies have the same obligations that Shell has. So, they are also responsible for reducing their CO2 emissions.
9) The Earth’s future is more important than any sacrifices Shell will have to make
Shell must change course and make the necessary sacrifices in the process. The court ruled that the future of the planet outweighs any setbacks that Shell may experience as a result of this verdict.
10) Shell must start now
The court ruled that Shell must start reducing its CO2 emissions immediately. This means that Shell cannot simply wait for the outcome of an appeal. This is good news because 2030 is just around the corner. Therefore, any appeal process must not be allowed to have a delaying effect; Shell must begin by taking action now.
By depending on an appeal to do nothing in the meantime, Shell is also taking a huge risk; if it loses an appeal, it will have even less time to comply with the verdict.
11) Shell must make concrete plans
Shell’s current climate policy is not concrete enough and is full of caveats. It is based on following current societal trends. This is totally insufficient. That is why the court ruled that there were imminent violations of human rights in its current policy.
Which means that it is all the more imperative that Shell with the verdict – immediately.
This article originally appeared on the website of Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands.