New Report Exposes Shell's Oil and Gas Expansion Despite Court Rulings

As Shell prepares to appeal a court order to reduce emissions by 45%, a new report from Milieudefensie and Oil Change International reveals the company has flagrantly continued to expand oil and gas projects since the 2021 court ruling, defying orders to align its plans with what is required to curb the climate crisis [1].

Since the 2021 Netherlands court ruling in the climate case against Shell, the company made the final decision to approve construction of 20 major oil and gas projects, including 6 in 2023 alone. Meanwhile, investments in Shell's renewable branch have declined. The finding comes from new data analysis on Shell’s production and investment plans, which Shell itself does not publish at a comparably detailed level.

Nine de Pater, Campaigner with Milieudefensie, said: "With these plans, Shell shows that it shamelessly prefers profit over everything else, continues to cause dangerous climate change, and endangers human lives. In Brazil, where the company wants to develop gigantic oil fields, the destructive effects on the climate, economy, and local communities will be felt for decades to come."

Kelly Trout, Research Director, Oil Change International, said: “All new projects Shell has planned are in violation of the Paris Agreement, and each one is an investment in more climate destruction. Shell is a textbook example of a fossil fuel company investing billions in new oil and gas, while working against meaningful climate policies and delaying the transition to renewable energy."

Key findings: Shell wants to extract oil and gas far beyond planetary limits

Earlier research by OCI and Milieudefensie in 2022 demonstrated that Shell should stop all new oil and gas fields to comply with the court ruling. But the opposite happened. Shell has taken steps back in its climate ambitions, ramped up development of new oil and gas, and wants to continue extracting oil and gas at levels consistent with climate breakdown. Shell is doubling down towards the destruction of a livable planet:

  • Since the court ruling in the climate case against Shell:
  • Shell has taken the final decision to approve construction of 20 major projects, including 6 new ones in 2023. 
  • Projects are planned in Brazil, Australia, and Qatar, each with huge carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Shell has over 800 oil and gas fields in the pipeline to be developed. 
  • These threaten to cause 5.3 billion tons of additional CO2 emissions; 38 times the emissions of the entire Netherlands in 2021.
  • If Shell continues approving and constructing new extraction projects, its oil and gas production could increase to 2030, a pathway aligned with climate disaster

Every decision counts

Every decision by Shell to invest in new fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure brings the world closer to crossing the 1.5°C global warming mark and potentially irreversible climate devastation. The analysis shows that Shell plans to invest more than 37 billion euros in new oil and gas in the coming years. Within the 1.5°C warming scenario, there is no room left for any new oil and gas projects, and the existing fields are already taking the warming past this limit. All new projects Shell has planned are in violation of the Paris Agreement. Any expansion of oil and gas goes against the court order for Shell to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030.

The will of governments and businesses is lacking

What stands in the way of a rapid transition away from fossil fuels is the will of governments and companies like Shell to put the well-being of people and planet above short-term politics and fossil fuel profits. 

Nine de Pater, Campaigner with Milieudefensie, said: "We simply cannot allow large polluting companies, who make billions in profits at the expense of people and planet, to cause the climate crisis to spiral even further out of control. We cannot wait any longer. That is why we are standing up to Shell and ING and once again going to the shareholders' meeting of other big polluters."

About the study

This report was written by Oil Change International and Milieudefensie. The analyses were made based on January/February 2024 data from Rystad Energy. The report deals only with emissions from the use of Shell's extracted oil and gas, which is less than half of the company's total Scope 3 emissions. The vast majority of end use emissions Shell is responsible for (64% of Scope 3 emissions from sold products), come from products that the company purchases and then sells. That part of Shell activities is not part of the analysis.

[1] In 2021, a court in the Hague ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its global carbon emissions by 45% by the end of 2030 compared with 2019 levels, in a landmark case brought by Friends of the Earth and over 17,000 co-plaintiffs. The oil giant’s sustainability policy was found to be insufficiently “concrete” by the Dutch court. Judge Larisa Alwin said Shell must “at once” reduce its CO2 output. The appeal from Shell is due April 2, 3, 4 and 12, 2024 at the Court of Appeal in The Hague.

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