What is it about?

On 26th May 2021, in a landmark response to a lawsuit filed against Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), the District Court of The Hague ordered the entire Shell group, a multinational oil and gas company. They did so to cut down its carbon dioxide emissions by 45% below the 2019 levels by 2030. This article describes the litigation, the court order, and the impact this could have on climate change in The Netherlands. While the plaintiffs’ in the lawsuit claimed negligence on behalf of RDS, the court’s decision relied on points centred around human rights and Netherland’s delicate environmental state. They stressed on the fact that RDS, as a large corporation, had a great responsibility to protect the environment. RDS, headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, is the top share-holding company of the Shell group. This enables RDS to determine the group’s general corporate policy and supervise its climate change risk management. Thus, the responsibility to reduce the entire Shell group’s global emissions can lie with RDS, which is under the jurisdiction of The Nether-lands. This is how a district court in one country passes a ruling of unprecedented proportions.

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Why is it important?

This is a landmark judgement because no other large corporate entity has been held responsible for emissions on this scale, let alone a fossil fuel producing company. Although this judgement is set to be appealed, it marks the first step in truly moving towards a world not so completely en-trenched in fossil capitalism, one where an economy driven by renewable energy could thrive. KEY TAKEAWAY: This judgement could drive further climate change litigation against large corporations and make them more responsible in the fight against climate change.

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This page is a summary of: Milieudefensie et al. v. Shell: A Tipping Point in Climate Change Litigation against Corporations?, Climate Law, July 2021, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/18786561-11020005.
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