In an unprecedented ruling, a court in The Hague has decided to go against one of the biggest oil mastodons. The Royal Dutch Shell company, was taken to court on December 2020 by the Friends of the Earth Netherlands organization (also known as Milieudefensie in the Netherlands). Following the hearings, Judge Larisa Alwin ruled that Shell must cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

Nigerian farmer Eric Dooh. Shell is once again due to be judged by a Dutch court following a separate, January 2021 ruling that found the oil company liable for pipeline leaks in Nigeria.

A Monumental and fast victory

This news is a major victory for the environmental associations and causes, and a major blow for Shell. The lawsuit was filed on April of 2019 with Friends of The Earth Netherlands and Green Peace representing 17 319 Dutch co-plaintifs, accusing Shell of undermining their global climate targets. Moreover the alliance of climate activists were demanding that Shell cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 2019 levels by 2030. The case accused Shell of shifting away from the Paris Agreement objectives, and therefore posing a threat to the population.

The verdict was a milestone for the various environmental actors, and the first major blow dealt to a big oil company. Marit Maij executive director of ActionAid Netherlands, was extremely happy with the judgment, “The outcome sends a strong signal to polluters that they can no longer get away with wreaking damage on lives, and that change is on its way whether they like it or not”.

This lawsuits against Shell shows that a new green wave is rising, and more and more environmental lawsuits are being taken to court.

“This is a monumental victory for our planet, for our children and is a step towards a liveable future for everyone.” -Donald Pols Friends of the Earth Netherlands director

Shell’s disappointment and green celebration

Members of the environmental group MilieuDefensie celebrate the verdict of the Dutch environmental organisation’s case against Royal Dutch Shell Plc, outside the Palace of Justice courthouse in The Hague, Netherlands, on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. PHOTO BY PETER BOER/BLOOMBERG

Shell responded to the outcome by promising to become a net zero emissions company by 2050, and said they would appeal “today’s disappointing court decision” and keep their efforts towards more sustainable and greener energy. Moreover Shell is stating they are investing billions in new biofuels, electric vehicles and low-carbon energy.

Although one of the major polluters and one of the biggest oil companies, Shell isn’t the worst offender. A study from Climate Accountability institute shows that the Saudi company Aramco is the most polluting with the global fossil fuel emissions by cumulative levels, with 4.33% of the global emission. In comparaison, the Royal Dutch Shell is rank number seven with 2.33%.

Wave of climate lawsuits and hopes

Following this Pyrrhic victory wave of climate lawsuits are in the works around the world. According Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, around 1385 lawsuits have been filed in the US and 425 in other countries. This new wave of climate lawsuits that target big polluters such as countries and major corporations is gaining more and more traction.

Arthur Saint-Mleux

Originally from France, moved to Montreal 4 years ago. With a bachelor degree in International Studies with a Middle East focus. Enjoy sports, concerts, and travelling. Adopted a cat named Oscar.

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