Milieudefensie confidently heading into Shell climate case appeal

Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and 6 other organisations are confidently heading into Shell’s appeal of the 2021 climate ruling, which will take place on April 2nd in The Hague. In the landmark lawsuit against the oil and gas company, the court decided that Shell must slash its CO2 emissions by 45%, in line with international climate agreements.

A new study, however, reveals that Shell will continue to invest billions of dollars in (new) oil and gas projects for decades to come. In addition, Shell has announced it will lower its climate ambitions, willingly choosing to ignore its role in addressing the climate crisis.

Donald Pols, Director of Milieudefensie: “Shell is constantly trying to run away from its responsibility to stop dangerous climate change, but they can't bolt from the courtroom. Climate scientists warn that we need to act even faster than originally thought. Shell may keep putting up smokescreens, but the facts are crystal clear. Their emissions need to be drastically cut.”

Roger Cox, lawyer for Milieudefensie: “The scientific basis on which we’ve founded our claims against Shell has only solidified. In court, it’s facts that matter, which is why I am confident that we can once again convince the judges that Shell needs to act in line with international climate agreements.” 

Human lives at risk

Shell’s worldwide emissions have an enormous impact on our planet. The court confirmed that the oil and gas company is compromising human rights, including the right to life and the right to respect for private and family life. Shell appealed shortly after the verdict was passed. Pols points to the findings from the latest IPCC report*, highlighting that the risks posed by climate change in the years since the ruling have only increased: “Forest fires, floods and other natural disasters will grow in severity if Shell continues to drill for oil and gas.” In fact, the oil and gas company recently weakened its carbon reduction target: “Shell plans for more gas extraction and last year even reduced its investments in renewables.”Science is clear; no more fossil fuel projects can be opened if the world is serious about the 1.5 degree climate goal.


The oil giant has recently scaled down its climate ambition and even wants to be world leading in the gas market. In addition, the annual report revealed that Shell has invested even less on solar and wind energy in the past year. According to Milieudefensie, it is telling that last year Shell paid out 15 times more to shareholders than it invested in solar and wind power. Pols: “The new climate ambitions show that Shell willingly continues to put human lives at risk at the sake of their own profit. As the climate crisis becomes more visible and dangerous on all sides, Shell decides to tone down its climate ambitions. We look forward to the appeal with confidence. Shell’s gain means a great loss for all of us.”

Slash emissions

Milieudefensie is highly critical of Shell’s plans to push ahead with new fossil fuel fuel projects. New research by Milieudefensie and Oil Change International shows that Shell currently has 813 new oil and gas projects in the pipeline to be developed. Pols: “Shell continues to drill for its own profit, fully aware it is causing dangerous climate change. Fortunately, the court will assess Shell’s impact on the climate. The judge's ruling in 2021 was crystal clear: 45% reduction of CO2 emissions in 2030.”

The necessity of climate litigation

The verdict from the landmark 2021 climate trial spread across the world. It was the first time ever a company was held accountable by the court for their role in the climate crisis and ordered to cut its emissions. Pols: “Our politicians have failed hopelessly to regulate big polluters. That is why we turn to the courtroom to signal that a company earning billions through worldwide climate destruction cannot go unpunished.”

Larger than a nation

Central to the Milieudefensie vs Shell lawsuit is the Paris Climate Agreement, signed by 195 nations in 2015. According to Milieudefensie, a multinational company like Shell also bears a responsibility to curb its emissions; the oil giant’s yearly emissions are equivalent to 8 times those of the Netherlands. Only the United States, India, China and Russia emit more than Shell.

Quotes co-plaintiffs

Andy Palmen, director Greenpeace Netherlands: “We are holding Shell accountable with this case, because the climate crisis will only get worse if Shell simply continues to invest in oil and gas. Shell has been putting mega-profits for shareholders above all those people who are already on the frontline of the climate crisis. Polluting companies should be held accountable for the damage they cause. With this case and the verdict in hand, we are taking global action against big polluters and for a liveable planet.”

Liset Meddens, founder Fossil-Free NL: “It is outrageous that Shell is ignoring the earlier court ruling and going full steam ahead with liquefied gas: LNG. The run on LNG is leaving a trail of destruction: for example, people in the US are struggling with the consequences of fracking, coastal destruction and sickening emissions. Moreover, LNG is a disaster for the climate due to numerous leaks of methane. This appeal is incredibly important to demand justice, not only for a liveable planet, but also for the health of all residents around this devastating industry.”

Wouter van der Heij, acting director Waddenvereniging: “Climate change is one of the major threats to the millions of birds and fish that depend on the Wadden area. The earlier ruling clearly showed that Shell owes it to nature and to the inhabitants of the Wadden area not to cause further climate change. Since this ruling, it has only become clearer how much damage climate change is causing to the Wadden. Shell will have to take responsibility.”

Anne de Jonghe, senior policy officer Both ENDS: “The fossil projects hit vulnerable people in poor countries hardest. They face destruction of their environment, pollution of land and water they rely on, and many people are forced to relocate. They do not share in the profits and are not heard. Continuing investments in the oil and gas in the global South, threatens them with high dependence on exports and holds back their own development. We want their voices to be heard in court.”

Winnie Oussoren, chair of Milieudefensie Jong:“The Shell-case is a great inspiration for young people worldwide who are increasingly starting and winning Climate Cases themselves. The climate crisis is more urgent than ever and I am confident that the judges will realise this.”

Agnes Schim van der Loeff, climate justice policy advisor at ActionAid: “It is time companies like Shell are held accountable for the climate damage they cause and the human rights violations that go with it. We trust that the appeal court will once again endorse this. This is important to Dutch society and especially to communities on the frontline of the climate crisis in the global South. Specifically women and girls who are hit the most by climate change.”

Hearing timeline

  • April 2nd - opening statements by all parties
  • April 3rd - statement Shell and Milieu & Mens
  • April 4th - statement Milieudefensie
  • April 12th - Questions of the court, reply Shell/M&M and rejoinder Milieudefensie and closing statements by all parties. 

Journalists are invited to attend the hearings at court in The Hague, The Netherlands. If you wish to attend, please register through 

After the last hearing on April 12th, there will be a press conference with Milieudefensie Director Donald Pols and lawyer Roger Cox.