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Dutch court rules Shell to take responsibility for climate change

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The Dutch court’s ruling on Royal Dutch Shell Plc will determine whether it is legally responsible for climate change, and executives of major global oil companies will pay close attention to this case.

A panel of judges from the Lower Court of The Hague will rule on Wednesday, and environmental activists will also pay close attention to the case. Although the judgment is only legally binding in the Netherlands, it will be reviewed as a new litigation area and may guide judges in other places to deliberate.

Shell was sued by Friends of the Earth’s Dutch subsidiary Milieudefensie. His lawyers spent two weeks in court earlier this year, arguing that the company’s purpose was to extract fossil fuels and disrupt the Paris Agreement. Limiting the temperature to below zero degrees Celsius violates human rights. 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In order to avoid oil spills and other unintentional pollution behaviors, oil companies around the world have so-called duty of care, which must be observed in the country where they operate. A ruling held that they are responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of the fossil fuels extracted. This is a milestone victory for environmentalists, who are increasingly seeking reforms from the courts. According to climatecasechart.com database data, there were nearly 1,700 climate change cases for governments and companies.

Eric De Brabandere, a professor of international dispute resolution at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said: “There is no doubt that this is a very important case.” “Not only because it directly targets such a large Oil companies, but also indirectly attacked the entire oil extraction industry.”

Shell acknowledged its role in combating climate change and said it is doing so, but it is better to achieve this through cooperation rather than court action.

Shell’s legal director Tang Jingqing said at the company’s annual meeting last week: “Tackling climate change is a huge, huge challenge and requires a collaborative global approach. I don’t think litigation will help us. “

17,000 plaintiffs

Milieudefensie summoned 17,000 people to sign as co-plaintiffs. This is “the first time the court has been asked to order a polluting multinational company to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to save the climate.”

Michael Berg, executive director of the Sabine Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University School of Law, said: “Judges all over the world are facing climate change cases and are seeking other judges as references.”

Shell’s recent decision has not disappeared in the two countries where the Anglo-Dutch company is jointly listed. The British Supreme Court said in February that thousands of Nigerians could sue Shell in London to harm the environment in West African countries. A month ago, a Dutch court ordered Shell Nigeria branch to compensate local people for losses caused by an oil spill 13 years ago. This was also a case brought by Milieudefensie.

As the Federal Court of Appeals ruled that global issues demand politics rather than politics, and not because of the public costs of Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP Plc and other energy companies helping to combat climate change, New York City suffered a setback last month. Legal action.

If a company is liable for breach of the Paris Agreement by not signing it, it may be inconsistent with international law. Although the case was tried in The Hague, where the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court are located, it is still tried in the local court of first instance in accordance with Dutch law.

De Brabandere said: “The test will be: to what extent Shell is obliged to reduce climate change, but this is not a necessary condition.” “International law does not really apply to companies, but to governments, and governments have the responsibility to apply them to the company.”

The Dutch environmental protection organization successfully sued the Dutch government in 2015, demanding it reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld the ruling in 2019, stating that “the state has an obligation to do its part”.

The International Energy Agency refocused its focus on energy companies last week, telling them to stop developing new oil, gas and coal fields today, otherwise they will face the danger of rising global temperatures.

Angus Walker, a partner at BDB Pitmans London, said: “There are many days to extract fossil fuels, and traditional oil exploration companies will have to quickly switch to green alternatives.” “Whether it wins the lawsuit or not, Shell may do so. Need to read the writing on the wall and catch up.”

Other oil giants face a showdown on Wednesday. Activist investor No. 1 Engine is trying to replace a third of ExxonMobil’s board of directors at its annual meeting in an attempt to make a climate-friendly overhaul of the world’s largest oil exporter. Chevron Corp., America’s second-largest producer, will face its targeted campaign at its annual meeting that day.



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