Milieudefensie accused Shell of not adhering to climate ruling

May 15, 2023  –AMSTERDAM – According to environmental organization Milieudefensie, Shell is not complying with the court ruling to improve its sustainability policy two years ago. The organization, which won that lawsuit against the energy giant, gives Shell’s sustainability policy “a big fail” in a progress report published in the run-up to the shareholders’ meeting on May 23. 

The court ordered Shell to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45 percent by 2030. That applies to the direct emissions that the company causes and the emissions that arise when Shell customers use gas, petrol, or other fuels. The ruling was the harshest with regard to own emissions, which obliges Shell to comply. 

Shell set itself the goal of halving its own emissions by 2030, but Milieudefensie pointed out that this is only about 5 percent of the company’s total emissions. As far as the environmental organization is concerned, the other 95 percent caused by the use of Shell fuels is the real issue. The court imposed a “constrained effort obligation” to reduce those emissions. 

Shell CEO Wael Sawan has made it clear that he sees no point in reducing oil and gas production because he believes the world will need those fossil fuel energy sources for a long time to come. The company prefers to focus on CO2 compensation through nature projects and the capture and storage of CO2. Milieudefensie does not consider this a real solution. 

According to the report, 8 percent of Shell’s investments last year went to solar and wind energy. Fossil fuels remain the main focus. 

Nine de Pater of Milieudefensie is very critical of this. “Shell knowingly continues to threaten human lives and does not intend to do anything about it. That is an insult to the court,” she said. De Pater believes that Shell is pretending to be greener than it is, while the group could do much more with a profit of almost 40 billion dollars last year. 

Shell hasn’t received the Milieudefensie report yet but denies ignoring the court ruling. That claim is “misleading,” according to the company. “Shell is actively taking steps to comply with the ruling while awaiting the outcome of the appeal.” Shell also believes that “aspects of the judgment are simply not feasible – or even reasonable – to expect from Shell, or any company for that matter.” Shell mainly has problems with the fact that it has to reduce customer emissions, while those customers themselves are not obliged to do so. 

London court won’t hold Shell directors liable for climate policy 

A London court has stopped a lawsuit against Shell’s directors for this climate policy. Client Earth personally sued the group’s executives for failing to secure the company’s future by doing more to combat climate change. The High Court in London considered the case too weak to proceed. 

Shell called the decision “the right outcome.” According to the oil and gas giant, the lawsuit – filed on behalf of shareholders – ignored the many different interests that directors of a company of Shell’s size must take into account. “The claim was completely misplaced, and English courts were clearly being abused,” said a spokesperson. 

ClientEarth, a law firm for environmental cases, now has the option to request an oral hearing. There, the organization can ask the court to reconsider its decision. ClientEarth said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision. 

The lawsuit, filed in February, was a global first. Never before had an indictment directly addressed the responsibility of company directors in combating global warming. 

According to Shell, the shareholders on whose behalf ClientEarth is acting holds less than half a percent of all shares in the company. They could also already share their concerns about the climate approach with Shell in other ways, for example, during shareholder meetings. 

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