Our impact and greatest successes

Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) has been working towards a fair and sustainable world since 1971. And we’ve had our share of successes. These are our biggest, more recent wins. They demonstrate that Milieudefensie has an impact on Dutch climate policy and is also creating ripples worldwide.

>For more inspiration, read about our history
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Our current campaigns:
>The Shell Climate Case
>Upping the pressure on other large polluting companies

Shell pays 15 million euros for oil spills in Nigeria (2022)

Nigerian farmers and their communities will receive 15 million euros in compensation for the oil pollution in their villages. The pollution was caused by leakages in Shell pipelines. A leak detection system should prevent future oil spills. According to Milieudefensie, this court case shows large-scale polluters all over the world that they can no longer get away with destructive practices.

In 2008 the farmers and fishermen together with Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), initiated legal proceedings against the headquarters of Shell in The Hague because of the oil pollution on their land. The pollution took place between 2004 and 2007 in the villages of Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo in Nigeria. Now, over 15 years later, the farmers and their fellow villagers are to receive justice. See also: oil spills Nigeria (2021).

Climate court case (2021)

Our Goal: To stop Shell from causing further serious climate damage.

What we did: With the support of over 17,000 co-plaintiffs and many others who supported us financially, we took Shell to court. Our demand: For Shell to commit to reducing its CO2 emissions by 45% by the year 2030.

What we achieved: This was our biggest win ever. On 26 May 2021, we wrote history. The judge ruled that Shell is a key contributor to major climate change, and that the company must do more to remedy this situation. This is the first time that a company is being forced to align its policies with the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.


Photograph: many of our co-plaintiffs in front of the Shell headquarter in The Hague, where they delivered the summons to appear in court.

Cover foto (top): director Donald Pols of Milieudefensie leaves the court house and shows the verdict to waiting co-plaintiffs and staff of Milieudefensie.

In brief: The court has ordered Shell to reduce its CO2 emissions by net 45% by 2030 (compared to 2019). Shell must also make an effort to bring down CO2 emissions from its suppliers and customers by net 45% (2030). It must do this by changing its company policy. The judge has also established that companies are responsible for protecting human rights throughout their chain of production by limiting CO2 emissions, including those of their business relations and customers.

>Read more about this historic victory

Oil spills Nigeria (2021)

Our Goal: To force Shell to clean up its oil spills in Nigeria.

What we did: Together with 4 Nigerian farmers, Milieudefensie sued Shell in an effort to establish the company’s liability for the oil spills in the Niger Delta.

What we achieved: The trial, held in the Netherlands, constituted the first time that a Dutch company was held responsible in a Dutch court of law for pollution in a foreign country. The judge ruled that Shell was indeed liable for the environmental damage in one of three villages. Both Milieudefensie and Shell appealed the courPhotograph: one of many demonstrations to stop the exploitation of shalegas.t’s decision. It took until January 2021 before a final verdict was reached, 13 years since the case was first initiated. But it was worth the wait: Shell was convicted. A big win for climate justice and the people living in the Niger Delta.

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Photograph: Eric Dooh Goi (m) , a member of the Nigerian embassee (r) and elder Friday (l) at the courthouse in The Hague.

This ruling also serves as a warning to other Dutch multinationals involved in injustices world-wide. The ruling gives victims of environmental pollution, land-grabbing or exploitation a better change of winning a legal battle.

>Read the full story of the Shell Nigeria court case

CO2 tax on industry (2020)

Our Goal: To make polluting companies pay for the CO2 they emit.

What we did: For 12 years, we campaigned for a CO2 tax. We carried out research, published reports, compiled a proposal for a CO2 law and we asked the public for their opinion on the proposed law.

What we achieved: On 15 December 2020, the bill for a CO2 tax for industrial companies was passed by the Dutch Senate and the Netherlands became the first country in the world with a CO2 tax for industrial companies. The bill is by no means perfect, but it is a good start.

Dutch Climate Act (2018)

Our Goal: A Dutch climate law.

What we did: In 2007, Milieudefensie, together with Natuur & Milieu and Milieudefensie’s youth organisation JMA, started a campaign for an ambitious climate act, presenting a comprehensive legal text as a possible template.


Photograph: Milieudefensie asks for a climate act in the Hofvijver, a pond in front of the office of the prime minister (then J.P. Balkenende).

What we achieved: Ten years on, the Netherlands finally adopted a climate act, which states that the Netherlands must reduce CO2 emissions by 95% by the year 2050 (compared to 1990).

The Netherlands are not the first country to adopt a climate act. These countries preceded us: France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Mexico and Sweden. The EU now also has a climate act.

A climate act legally enshrines a country’s commitment to a final objective and also, in some cases, to intermediate goals. In most countries that have adopted a climate act, this proved a boost to climate policy. That is certainly the case for the Netherlands, that always ranked low in European climate listings. On paper, our climate policy has since improved. Yet it is too early to say how this is turning out in practice.

Shale gas ban (2015)

Our Goal: To prevent on-going exploitation of shale gas in the Netherlands.

What we did: Local residents asked their municipalities to declare themselves shale gas-free areas.

What we achieved: 223 out of a total of 388 Dutch municipalities and 10 of the 12 provinces committed to this declaration, blocking all shale gas exploitation in their respective jurisdictions. In 2015, the government subsequently issued a national ban on the drilling for shale gas.

Shale gas was, at that time, still in its infancy in the Netherlands. But many plans had been developed. We prevented their implementation. As a result, an estimated 200 to 500 billion m3 of shale gas (a TNO estimate from 2013) will remain in the ground.

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Photograph: one of the many demonstrations to stop the exploitation of shalegas.

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