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Court rules Shell must cut greenhouse gas emissions

2 June, 2021As the oil giant is not fulfilling its duty of care in combatting climate change, a Dutch court has ruled that Shell must speed up cutting carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, compared to 2019 levels. Announced on 26 May, the verdict not only applies to Shell, but also to its suppliers and customers. 

This remarkable step forward towards corporations’ accountability and responsibility came after activist groups filed a lawsuit in April 2019 on behalf of more than 17,000 Dutch citizens, alleging that Shell’s continued investment in fossil fuels represents a threat to human rights. The court decided that "Shell's climate policy was not concrete and is full of conditions...that's not enough", ordering the company to cut carbon emissions by a staggering 45 per cent by 2030.

The ruling sets an important precedent, as it opens the way to climate change litigations towards other energy companies, such as Total, BP, Exxon or Chevron, forcing them to go further in their emission reduction plans and their implementation.

Shell has declared that they will appeal the ruling and that the company has set their goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.

However, in a recent interview on clean energy targets, Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden said that the company focuses on the demand side, expressing hopes that the demand for oil and gas would be around for a very long time. So as long as oil and gas demand persists, Shell will continue drilling, making its compromises implausible.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, says:

“Shell has failed to deliver due diligence responsibility under Dutch law because its policies and emissions contribute to a dangerous climate change. We expect and demand that this ruling will oblige Shell and other oil companies to develop real plans to reduce their carbon emissions and invest in green energy and products with a socially acceptable Just Transition. Transition must be done in consultation with workers and their unions in order to achieve justice in workplaces and communities.”

IndustriALL Global Union has a union network with the participation of its relevant affiliates, which has conducted a campaign demanding Shell to apply the same high-level standards and its operations everywhere, including suppliers. But, the company remains hostile to the unions and fails to engage with them on a global level and limit precarious work, improve health and safety. Recently, in the USA, Shell has suddenly decided to pull itself back from the refining industry by selling the Puget Refinery to HollyFrontier and the Deer Park Refinery to Mexico state owned oil company Pemex although the latter was always presented as flagship refinery for Shell in the US, with which a serious risk has emerged that hundreds of workers may be left behind. The workers in the refinery are members of IndustriALL’s affiliate USW.