Shell quits oil?! Why we need a climate obligation for large polluters

Imagine: a boardroom meeting with the CEOs of some of the largest polluting corporations. The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell announces "Shell quits oil." Soon the others follow and decide to radically change course as well. No more fossil investments, no more large scale dairy exports, climate neutral steel. Too good to be true, right? Sadly, yes. Large polluters won't change on their own. That's why we need a legal climate obligation forcing corporations to take climate action.

Shell quits oil?!

Milieudefensie's campaign video calling for a climate obligation. Turn on English subtitles in video settings.

In our climate case against Shell, the judge held Shell accountable for contributing to dangerous climate change. The judge ordered Shell to quickly and drastically reduce its CO2 emissions. Not only of its own activities, but of all of its suppliers and end users as well. This historic verdict is a huge victory. However, it's not enough if other corporations simply continue to pollute. We need a law that holds all large polluters liable for climate change.

A legal climate obligation

Why a law? Because self-regulatory agreements between corporations are too weak and barely change anything. Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) is calling upon the Dutch government to legally oblige all Dutch corporations to abide by the Paris Agreement. So that not only Shell, but all large polluters are forced to take climate action. This entails reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

In the Dutch Parliament there is already a proposal for a law to hold companies accountable for environmental and human rights violations. Not just in the Netherlands, but worldwide and across their entire supply chain. We call for this law to explicitly include climate obligations.

What about outside the Netherlands?

Of course it's not just Dutch corporations that need to reduce their emissions. Similar legislation is needed in other countries. A recent survey in multiple European countries showed that 80% of European citizens want stricter laws to hold companies accountable for environmental and human rights abuses. Not just in the EU, but wherever in the world they operate.

Fortunately, we are not alone in fighting for climate obligations. Similar campaigns are happening in various countries. And we are working together with other groups for EU legislation on climate obligations as well as a UN Binding Treaty on business and human rights. As part of this work, Milieudefensie together with other Friends of the Earth groups published recommendations in the briefing  'How to make corporations effectively respect the environment and climate.' We need climate obligations at all regulatory levels in order to tackle the climate crisis.