Shell Emissions
Source: Getty Images

Court Orders Shell to Halve CO2 Emissions by 2030 in Historic Ruling


May. 26 2021, Published 1:27 p.m. ET

Every environmentalist loves to see an oil and gas company be torn to shreds. And while there is still a frustratingly long way to go in terms of the oil industry being held fully accountable for polluting the planet and essentially pioneering the climate crisis, a pretty delicious slice of justice was served today. A Dutch court has ordered Shell to nearly halve its carbon emissions in the next nine years.

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This is definitely a step in the right direction — but of course, Shell is already planning an appeal. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

Shell Emissions
Source: Getty Images
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A Dutch court has ordered Shell to slash emissions.

On Wednesday, May 26, 2021, from a courtroom in The Hague, the Netherlands, Judge Larisa Alwin dished out a few orders to Royal Dutch Shell (aka Shell), the fourth largest oil company on the planet, which is based in both Britain and the Netherlands. Mainly, the court has ordered Shell to slash its CO2 emissions by 45 percent by 2030, working down from the company’s 2019 emission levels, as reported by Reuters.

This would bring Shell’s emissions on track to comply with the targets set by the Paris Agreement. Additionally, the judge demanded that Shell start making efforts to comply with the order immediately, adding that Shell will now be held responsible for scope 3 emissions from customers and all emissions from suppliers, according to Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie), one of the seven groups that filed the April 2019 lawsuit prompting this court decision.

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As per Friends of the Earth, this is “the first time in history [that] a judge has held a corporation liable for causing dangerous climate change.” 

The other six groups to file the lawsuit were Greenpeace Netherlands, ActionAid, Both ENDS, Fossielvrij NL, Jongeren Milieu Actief, and the Waddenvereniging; additionally, a group of 17,379 individuals signed on as co-plaintiffs, as per Greenpeace.

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“This is a monumental victory for our planet, for our children, and is a stop towards a livable future for everyone,” Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, said in a statement. “The judge has left no room for doubt: Shell is causing dangerous climate change and must stop its destructive behavior now.” 

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“Shell cannot continue to violate human rights and put profit over people and the planet. This verdict is a clear signal to the fossil fuel industry,” added Andy Palmen, Greenpeace Netherlands’ interim director. “Coal, oil and gas need to stay in the ground. People around the world are demanding climate justice. Today the court confirmed that the fossil fuel industry cannot continue their climate pollution. We can hold multinational corporations worldwide accountable for the climate crisis.”

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Shell is appealing the Dutch court’s decision.

As Shell is one of many gas-guzzling companies that puts profit over people, it’s not too big of a surprise that the corporation has already announced its intention to appeal the court decision, as a Shell spokesperson told CNBC.

“We are investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy, including electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, renewables and biofuels,” the spokesperson added. “We want to grow demand for these products and scale up our new energy businesses even more quickly.”

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As of now, Shell’s overarching climate goal is for the company to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050; the company has also stated its target of reducing emissions by 20 percent by 2030, according to a climate target document shared by the company. 

Until today, those goals were just goals, and Shell was not actually required to stick to them. But thanks to this new ruling, Shell has to start seriously ramping things up. This landmark response to the 2019 lawsuit proves how much power we as people really do hold, and hopefully this decision will set the tone for future lawsuits against other polluting corporations.

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