Dutch court orders Shell to slash its emissions by 45 percent by 2030

Dutch court orders Shell to slash its emissions by 45 percent by 2030
© BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

A Dutch court on Wednesday ruled that Royal Dutch Shell must cut its emissions by 45 percent by 2030 in order to more closely adhere to Paris Agreement targets. 

The ruling in the case, which was filed in 2018 by roughly 1,700 Dutch citizens who argued that Shell’s polluting oil and gas exploration threatened their human rights to a stable climate, could set a legal precedent for oil companies amid mounting pressure to significantly reduce their fossil fuel emissions. 

The decision, which is only legally binding in the Netherlands, requires that Shell significantly increase its initial 2030 goal for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent of 2019 levels. 

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The court said that while Shell was not in violation of its obligation to reduce emissions, as environmental groups had argued in the lawsuit, its emissions policy was “not concrete, has many caveats and is based on monitoring social developments rather than the company’s own responsibility for achieving a CO2 reduction.”

The court did not provide specific actions Shell should undertake in order to achieve the cutbacks, saying the energy company “has complete freedom in how it meets its reduction obligation and in shaping the Shell group’s corporate policy.”

The ruling prompted praise from environmental groups and activists, with Roger Cox, a lawyer for the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, one of the organizations behind the case, telling The Associated Press, “The climate won today.” 

“This ruling will change the world. Worldwide, people are in the starting blocks to take legal action against oil companies following our example,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Shell pushed back on the ruling, saying in a statement that it planned to appeal the “disappointing court decision,” according to the AP. 

Shell argued Wednesday that it is currently “investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy, including electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, renewables and biofuels.” 

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“We want to grow demand for these products and scale up our new energy businesses even more quickly,” the company added. 

The ruling comes as roughly 1,800 lawsuits are pending related to climate change across the globe, Bloomberg noted, with activists hoping The Hague court decision will set a standard for higher emissions target cuts for fossil fuel companies. 

Compared to other major oil and gas companies, Shell has established a relatively aggressive emissions reduction strategy, with a stated goal of reaching net zero “absolute emissions” by 2050.