Multinational oil company Royal Dutch Shell has been ordered in court to slash its carbon emissions in order to protect the environment from climate change.
The landmark ruling, thought to be the first in history of its kind, demands the firm cuts its emissions by net 45% by 2030 – compared with 2019 levels – to bring it in line with the Paris Agreement.
The outcome has far-reaching implications for the global fossil fuel industry and could pave the way for further climate litigation.
Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands (FOE NL) which coordinated the case, called it a "monumental victory" and a "big leap" 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," he said in a statement.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) said it "fully expect[ed] to appeal today’s disappointing court decision". But even if the company did appeal, it must comply with the judgement immediately, judge Larisa Alwin said.
The historic verdict was handed down at the District Court of the Hague against Royal Dutch Shell, in a case brought by environmentalist and human rights groups including FOE NL.
The campaigners’ lawyers brought the case on the grounds that RDS had breached its legal duty of care and violated human rights.
Shell was the ninth biggest polluter in the world in 1988-2015, according to the Carbon Majors database.
The firm currently has a target to reduce the "carbon intensity" of its prodcuts by 100% before 2050.
But judge Larisa Alwin said the target was "not concrete, has many caveats and is based on monitoring social developments rather than the company’s own responsibility for achieving a CO2 reduction".
Carbon intensity reflects the total amount of greenhouse gas emitted per unit of energy sold, allowing the oil major to rely on offsetting to reach the target rather than make absolute emissions cuts.
This would mean it could even increase fossil fuel production if it could offset alongside.
The verdict comes on the same day that shareholders planned to vote on climate proposals at ExxonMobil and Chevron, leading some green groups to describe it as a "day of reckoning" for big oil.
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