Friends of the Earth Netherlands starts climate lawsuit against Shell

Amsterdam, April 4th 2018 – Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) demands that Royal Dutch Shell stops wrecking the climate. If Shell refuses to do so,

Friends of the Earth Netherlands will take the multinational to court. Dutch citizens can become co-plaintiffs via Shell continues to focus on oil and gas extraction, while it has known for over 30 years that this leads to catastrophic climate change. That is why Milieudefensie has called upon Roger Cox, the lawyer who won the 2015 climate case against the Dutch government, to demand that Shell takes action.

Unique case

Milieudefensie announced this during a press conference in the former Shell headquarters, the A’DAM Tower, in Amsterdam. Shell has eight weeks to meet the demands laid out by Milieudefensie to avert a lawsuit. This is the first time that legal action has been used to pressure a company to change its business model to avert catastrophic climate change. ‘Many of us are doing their best to put an end to the climate problem’, declared Donald Pols, Milieudefensie’s director. ‘In the meantime, Shell continues to invest in new oil and gas sources. Shell, just like the rest of us, should take its responsibility to stop wrecking the climate’.

Curtailing oil and gas investments

In order to meet Milieudefensie’s demands, Shell needs to bring its business strategy in line with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. This requires Shell to cut back its oil and gas investments. ‘Oil and gas infrastructure usually last for decades’, notes Pols. ‘If the company does not cut back now, we’re going to still be shackled to oil and gas beyond 2050 and won’t meet the climate goals’.

All Dutch citizens can join this case

Any Dutch citizen who also believes that Shell should be held accountable for its climate destroying activities can join the case. Sustainable entrepeneur Lynn Zebeda became the first co-plaintiff: ‘We still have so much to do with so little time to turn the tide. This is a big step in the right direction’.

Dutch actor and comedian Ruben van der Meer is also a co-plaintiff in this case: ‘We can all contribute, but Shell could actually make a very significant contribution’.

Roger Cox: ‘Shell is on a collision course’

Roger Cox is the lawyer who will pursue the case for Milieudefensie. Cox, working with Urgenda won a climate case against the Dutch government in 2015. ‘Shell’s current policy is on a collision course with the Paris agreements’, says Cox. ‘It seems like Shell considers the damage it does to the climate as an awful but necessary evil. The law, however, opposes Shell’s view. Shell was informed in the liability letter that was sent today, that the company has a legal duty to bring its policy in line with the Paris climate agreements’.

Shell’s deeds are not as green as their words

Shell does too little to prevent dangerous climate change. Shell’s plans show that it only wants to invest some 5% in the coming years in ‘New Energies’ (sustainable energy). Meanwhile, 95% goes toward exacerbating the problem, meaning the extraction and production of even more oil and gas sources. ‘Shell has known about the disastrous consequences of its oil and gas activities for over thirty years’, Pols points out. ‘Nevertheless, the company continues to focus on oil and gas production’.

In the media, Shell has indicated that it supports the Paris climate agreement. ‘Unfortunately, Shell does not walk the talk’, Pols laments. ‘The sustainable deeds make up only a fraction of Shell’s global business. Shell has failed to assume its responsibility on climate change; that’s why we are holding Shell accountable’.

Climate cases against companies

Milieudefensie’s climate case is unique in that it is requiring Shell to act in line with the internationally agreed-upon climate goals. There are already several other lawsuits worldwide that are attempting to hold fossil fuel companies, including Shell, accountable for their contributions to dangerous climate change, but most are focused on financial compensation.

In January, New York City went to court to claim compensation from the five largest oil companies for dramatic climate change impacts, including Shell. Several cities in California have done the same. In addition, a Peruvian farmer sued RWE (a German energy company) in Germany for its contribution to glaciers melting above his village.

Milieudefensie is calling on all Dutch citizens to join the lawsuit. They can register as a co-plaintiff via