Shell to Face Suit at Hague Over Climate Change

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — Oil company Shell received a summons Friday from climate activists in a case aimed at forcing a stronger check on carbon emissions.

The move follows orders from a Hague court for the Dutch government to achieve a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the country by by 2020, from benchmark levels set in 1990.

A Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth wrote to Shell CEO Ben van Beurden a year ago that the oil giant’s role in climate change amounted to a breach of “legal duty of care.”

Not counting the boxes of supporting documents, the summons wheeled into Shell’s headquarters at The Hague is more than 250 pages long. Several hundred activists gathered at the site to watch the trolley’s procession.

It seeks a court order from The Hague that will make Shell commit to thresholds set out in the Paris climate accord: specifically, a 45% reduce in carbon emissions by 2030, compared to 2010 levels, and cutting emissions to zero by 2050.

“Shell’s directors still do not want to say goodbye to oil and gas,” Donald Pols of Friends of the Earth Netherlands said, as quoted this afternoon by the Associated Press. “They would pull the world into the abyss. The judge can prevent this from happening.”

Shell reacted by noting that its involvement in renewable-energy projects in the Netherlands is already ongoing. Emphasizing that it understands the necessity of climate change action, Shell said the company is “committed to playing our part.”

“We welcome constructive efforts to work together to find solutions to the challenge of climate change, but we do not believe the courtroom is the right venue to address the global climate challenge,” the company said.

Rather than seeking compensation, the new case focuses on pushing Shell to accept more responsibility on cutting emissions. The Shell case has more than 17,000 claimants.

Roger Cox, a lawyer who initially represented environmental group Urgenda and is now leading the civil action against Shell, noted that parallels between the two cases are rooted, partly, in the duty of care enshrined in Dutch law.

“And more specifically the duty to not create dangerous situations for others if these dangerous situations can reasonably be prevented,” he said. “So what we in fact are stating is that Shell is contributing to dangerous climate change because its emissions are not in line with what is needed.”

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