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Watershed ruling: judge forces Shell to drastically curb CO2 emissions

Friends of the Earth Philippines hails landmark decision as victory for people and the planet

LRC - Friends of the Earth team members rejoice over a Hague local court decision mandating Shell to reduce its emissions. Credit: Mai Taqueban

The Hague and Manila - For the first time in history, a judge has held a corporation liable for causing dangerous climate change.

Today, as a result of legal action brought by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie), together with 17,000 co-plaintiffs and six other organisations, the court in The Hague ruled that Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% within 10 years. This historic verdict has enormous consequences for Shell and other big polluters globally.

Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, said: "This is a monumental victory for our planet, for our children and is a stop towards a liveable future for everyone. The judge has left no room for doubt: Shell is causing dangerous climate change and must stop its destructive behaviour now."

"This is a turning point in history. This case is unique because it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting company to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. This ruling may also have major consequences for other big polluters," said Roger Cox, lawyer for Friends of the Earth Netherlands.

Main points from the verdict:

  • Royal Dutch Shell must reduce its emissions by 45% net by the end of 2030.

  • Shell is also responsible for emissions from customers (scope 3) and suppliers.

  • There is a threat of human rights violations to the ‘right to life’ and ‘undisturbed family life’.

  • Shell must comply with the judgment immediately, because Shell's current climate policy is not concrete enough.

“The tide has finally turned for climate litigation. May this make the case for a just transition to renewable energy even more urgent. The Global South is at greater risk to climate catastrophe, and decisions which have a structural impact are badly needed. This gives hope for countries like the Philippines to run after carbon majors, which continue to wreak havoc on the planet and people,” said Maya Quirino, advocacy coordinator of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, which is the Philippines member of Friends of the Earth.

Campaigners from Milieudefensie outside the courthouse moments after the landmark victory.

The ruling from the court in The Hague will have major ramifications internationally. "This is a landmark victory for climate justice. Our hope is that this verdict will trigger a wave of climate litigation against big polluters, to force them to stop extracting and burning fossil fuels. This result is a win for communities in the global South who face devastating climate impacts now,” said Sara Shaw from Friends of the Earth International.

"This verdict is an enormous step forward for the international climate movement. One of the world’s biggest polluters has finally been held responsible. I am filled with hope for the future, as we know that the climate crisis does not wait and does not stop at our borders. That is why it is so important the judge is now forcing Shell to take responsibility for its actions. This is also a clear signal to the other big polluters that they also have to act now," said Donald Pols.

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