Shell ruling: a breakthrough for climate protection?

Environmentalists have won an important legal victory in the Netherlands: a court has ordered energy company Shell, which has its headquarters in The Hague, to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45 percent compared to 2019 levels by 2030. This is the first time a company is being forced to comply with a climate target. Shell plans to appeal the ruling.

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Politiken (DK) /

Time is running out

We desperately need this good news for climate protection, Politiken stresses:

“The coronavirus crisis diverted our attention from the climate last year. But now the challenges are more urgent than ever. Last week the World Meteorological Organisation issued a warning. According to its calculations, there is already a risk of the global temperature rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next five years - the critical limit that the Paris Agreement seeks to prevent from being permanently exceeded. So this is a matter of urgency. And the more pressure there is, the better - pressure on governments as well as extreme pressure on private companies.”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

Real danger of a systemic shock

Kauppalehti predicts turbulence on the financial markets:

“In its latest assessment, risk analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft expects the restructuring process needed to cut emissions to be uncontrolled rather than controlled. ... The decision of the Dutch court is a foretaste of things to come. ... Lawsuits are pending all over the world. ... It's not only the energy sector that is affected, but all sectors in which pollutants are emitted. An uncontrolled transition also poses a considerable risk for the financial markets. The danger of a systemic shock is real if capital starts to withdraw quickly from emissions-intensive industries.”

De Tijd (BE) /

The next outcast after tobacco

De Tijd sees the petroleum sector at a turning point:

“In the end, the sector has no choice. The banning of fossil fuels is a global phenomenon and it is happening all the faster in the West. The oil companies are facing the same evolution as the tobacco industry, which inevitably had to shrink due to worldwide actions taken against tobacco consumption. In a few decades, fossil fuels will no longer generate profits as they still do today. The big oil companies are not about to disappear in one fell swoop. But to survive, they'll have to drastically reform their business model.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

A beat of the drum

De Volkskrant columnist Sheila Sitalsing expresses delight over the ruling, stressing the impact for future generations:

“This is a sensation. The order to cut its CO2 emissions takes effect immediately and cannot be delayed by appeal after appeal. ... All the other boardrooms will now be anxiously conferring with their legal departments about whether it won't be cheaper to get more serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions immediately rather than waiting for an inevitable lawsuit. ... Here and there you can hear rasping protests, complaints about modern trends and 'activist judges' who are 'sitting on the politicians' chairs'. ... This is how it must have been back when women, minorities and other disadvantaged people fought for their rights.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Judges doing the politicians' work again

The Frankfurter Rundschau says the court has made legal history:

“The Shell case could also set a precedent for many other corporations in Europe that don't take international climate agreements seriously. ... In fact, it is clear that it is increasingly the courts that are enforcing the necessary climate protection, because politicians, walled in by industrial lobbies, are unable to. ... Shell and co. would be well advised to finally recognise the facts and aggressively tackle the reforms.”

De Standaard (BE) /

It should be the state that is on trial

De Standaard says the wrong company was in the dock:

“Can judges force companies to comply with an agreement to which they were not themselves party [the Paris Climate Agreement]? The strict measures Shell is being forced to take stand in stark contrast to Ryanair's super-special offers to fly to sunny destinations for 5 euros, for example. ... As outrageous as one may find it, is it really up to the judges to take action where the politicians won't? The judges should in fact condemn the state for negligence. But of course they can't convict someone who hasn't been charged.”