Shell loses trial against environmentalists

The British-Dutch energy company has to reduce its emissions more than planned. That was ordered by a court in The Hague.

Logo of the energy company Shell

Dhe oil and natural gas company Shell has lost a major climate suit against environmental protection organizations and, according to the verdict, has to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions considerably. Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45 percent net by 2030 compared to 2019, the court said on Wednesday in The Hague. According to the ruling, the British-Dutch group is committed to climate protection, which applies to its own companies as well as to suppliers and end users.

Shell had rejected the demands and argued that it had committed to climate protection. However, the court stated that the measures adopted by the company were “not very specific and full of reservations”. Shell had argued that if convicted, it would have to rapidly cut fossil fuel sales. But then other providers would take over this. The court did not accept the argument. Other companies would also have the same obligation.

Several environmental organizations and more than 17,000 citizens had sued the group. Shell is violating global climate targets and is continuing to invest heavily in the production of oil and natural gas, the plaintiffs said.

The stock exchange reacted calmly

The plaintiffs spoke on Wednesday of a historic court ruling. “This is a monumental victory for our planet, our children and a big step forward towards a future worth living for all,” said Donald Pols, director of the Dutch arm of the environmental group Friends of the Earth. “One of the biggest polluters in the world has finally been held accountable,” said Pols. In this way, the court is also giving a clear signal to other “major polluters.”

The lawyer Roger Cox, who represented the plaintiff in court, described the judgment as “a turning point in history”. The judges’ decision is a novelty because the ruling obliges a large company that is responsible for high greenhouse gas emissions to comply with the requirements of the Paris Agreement for the first time.

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To the detailed view

Shell spoke in a first reaction to the surprising judgment of a “disappointing decision” of the court. At the same time, the group announced that it would appeal the judgment. A spokesman said Shell is already investing billions in climate-friendly energy sources and wants to expand this business further. Meanwhile, the stock exchange reacted calmly to the judge’s ruling: The Shell share price was only quoted at a discount of around 0.6 percent in London in the afternoon.

Shell has been one of the first major oil companies to respond to the growing criticism of climate protection activists and investors in the industry in recent years. The company announced in 2017 that it wanted to reduce the CO2 content of its products. This also includes the so-called Scope 3 emissions, i.e. the CO2 emissions caused by customers when they use the fuels sold by Shell. However, Shell has not committed itself to reducing the absolute amount of emissions in this decade. In 2020 Shell also announced that it wanted to become climate neutral by the middle of the century.