Brussels (Brussels Morning) A civil court in the Netherlands reached a landmark verdict against the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell, ordering the private company to cut its greenhouse emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to its 2019 levels, Reuters reported.
The case was brought by the Friends of the Earth (FoE) environmental group, along with six other institutions and more than 17,000 Dutch citizens. As the verdict was reached, FoE proclaimed that it marked the first time a private company has been legally forced to align its policies with the Paris climate accords.
“The court orders Royal Dutch Shell, by means of its corporate policy, to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 with respect to the level of 2019 for the Shell group and the suppliers and customers of the group”, Justice Larisa Alwin declared in her verdict.
The ruling made it clear that the terms of its directive apply to the group’s global operations, and are not limited to the Netherlands. Shell will have to make sure, by whatever means it deems best, to cut the global emissions of its entire group of suppliers and subsidiaries to the stipulated levels.
As the world’s largest oil and gas trader, Shell produced some 1.38 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2020, which comes to around 4.5% of global energy-related emissions in that year. The figure was down from 1.65 billion in 2019, mostly due to a COVID-19 pandemic-induced drop in demand for oil and gas.
Previously, Shell had planned to cut the carbon intensity of its products by 20% until 2030, compared to its 2016 baseline. Shell was deliberately aiming for “intensity” as a metric, which measures the amount of emissions per unit of energy produced – a figure which could conceivably have indicated improvement while absolute emissions continued to go up.
Shell CEO, Ben van Beurden, had rejected absolute reduction targets earlier, claiming that the most likely means of achieving absolute cuts would have amounted to shrinking the company’s business.