When Polluters Must Pay | Shell Oil Ordered to Limit Carbon Emissions

Environmentalists, who have long been the Davids in a sea of corporate Goliaths, are celebrating after a court in The Hague ordered oil firm Royal Dutch Shell to cut its carbon emissions.

The Dutch court has ruled that oil giant Shell must reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by the year 2030. Shell, itself, had an aim to reduce the company’s emissions by 20% by 2030; but the Dutch court’s order multiplies Shell’s internal target by more than half.

The lawsuit was filed in April 2019 by seven activist groups on behalf of 17,200 Dutch citizens. Court summons claimed Shell’s business model is endangering human rights and lives by posing a direct threat to the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.

The court also ruled that Shell is responsible for emissions from its customers and suppliers, known as scope 3 emissions, and that Shell’s activities constituted a threat to the “right to life” and “undisturbed family life,” as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The landmark ruling comes at a time when the Goliaths of the corporate world are under immense pressure to set short, medium and long-term emissions targets that are consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Roger Cox, a lawyer for environmental activists in the case, said in a statement that the ruling marked “a turning point in history” and could have major consequences for other big polluters.


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