Our climate case against Shell

In 2018, Milieudefensie started a lawsuit against Shell. We were demanding that Shell align its business plans to the goals of the Paris climate agreement. On May 26, 2021, we won our Climate Case. A historic victory. But the battle is not over yet.

Why Shell?

When we announced this case in 2018, everyone thought we were crazy. How did we come to take on one of the most powerful companies in the world? This was not without reason:

  • Shell is one of the largest polluters in the world. Every year, the company emits 9 times more greenhouse gases than the entire Netherlands put together.
  • Shell has known for over 30 years that climate change is a major threat to life on Earth. And yet, the company decided to mislead the public and actively oppose climate policies.
  • If companies like Shell fail to act quickly enough, we will not achieve the Paris climate goals and we will not be able to stop catastrophic climate change.

The verdict

These are the most striking points from the judge’s verdict:

  • Shell must reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2019 figures.
  • Shell is responsible for both corporate and consumer CO2 emissions.
  • Shell must use its influence to present consumers with more sustainable choices. Shell can no longer simply be a follower; it must lead the way.
  • Shell is mandated to respect human rights. Because Shell is a major cause of catastrophic climate change, it is putting people’s lives at risk. And this cannot be easily undone.
  • Shell itself is responsible, not just the government alone.

> Read more about the verdict

This is what the media wrote about the Climate Case:

The New York Times: “Startling Defeats Push Oil Giants Towards a ‘Tipping Point’.

The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant: “Is Shell ... the Kodak of our time? Or will Shell ... choose a different course thanks to people like Van Baal, Milieudefensie’s Donald Pols and the judge in The Hague?

The Guardian: “Shell’s historic loss in The Hague is a turning point in the fight against big oil.

What this verdict means

Since the verdict, similar cases against major polluters have been announced in other countries. Such as against Total in France, against ENI in Italy and against the car industry in Germany.

To best support groups working on this case or those considering a similar lawsuit, we’ve created two guides:

In these two guides, we describe exactly how we handled the lawsuit from communications to fundraising and we explain exactly what our legal strategy was.

In the meantime, we at Friends of the Earth Netherlands itself are not standing still as we continue to increase the pressure. We recently sent a letter to 29 large polluting companies in which we call on them to come up with a decent climate plan. If they don't, they might very well be the next one we sue.

The Appeal

The judge’s verdict was indeed historic! For the first time in history, a judge has ordered a major polluter to align its plans with the Paris climate goals. But Shell is appealing this decision because:

  • Shell believes that it is already doing enough to combat climate change.
  • Shell claims that it has little influence over the fuel consumption of consumers.
  • Shell says it’s unfair that it’s the only company being singled out to reduce its emissions.

However, Shell cannot wait for the decision of their appeal and must immediately start greening [its greening efforts].

The science is clear: No new oil and gas wells

The science is very clear. To prevent the earth from warming up by more than 1.5 degrees, we must leave oil and gas in the ground. Otherwise we won’t make it. So science is on our side. Nevertheless, Shell continues to search for new oil and gas wells. This is not in line with the judge’s verdict. Shell is therefore knowingly continuing to endanger our planet and violate human rights.

Contact: teamshell@milieudefensie.nl

Help us defeat Shell again

Lawsuits against wealthy, powerful companies cost a lot of money. A very large proportion of this case is paid for by donations from people like you. So do you want to help us? Then support us with a donation. Do you have a Dutch bank account? Then you can also donate via ideal.