Court orders Royal Dutch Shell to cut emissions in historic first

A court in the Netherlands today ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels. Previous to the ruling, Shell’s emissions reduction target was 20% by 2030.

It’s the first time activists have taken a major energy company to court to get it to overhaul its climate strategy, and they were successful.

Shell’s current climate target states that it aims to cut its emissions by 45% by 2035 and reach net-zero by 2050.

The Hague District Court, where Anglo-Dutch Shell is headquartered, said in an English-language summary that Shell is not currently in breach of its obligation to reduce emissions, but that its policy:

…is not concrete, has many caveats, and is based on monitoring social developments rather than the company’s own responsibility for achieving a CO2 reduction.

Therefore, the court has ordered [Royal Dutch Shell] to reduce the emissions of the Shell group, its suppliers, and its customers by net 45%, as compared to 2019 levels, by the end of 2030, through the corporate policy of the Shell group.

The case, which was filed in 2018 and began in December 2020, was brought by a group of seven environmental organizations and more than 17,000 Dutch citizens who are co-plaintiffs. Friends of the Earth Netherlands led the case, which called for Shell to align with the Paris Agreement – and that meant 45% by 2030. Shell is required to implement the changes internationally, not just in the Netherlands.

The judge also said that “other companies will also have to reduce CO2 emissions.” Shell is expected to appeal the ruling.

Although it’s not exactly the same, as the Hague case called for an overhaul of Shell’s strategy, it contrasts with the US Supreme Court ruling on May 16 in favor of 21 energy companies. The energy companies successfully contested a lawsuit filed by the City of Baltimore, which sought monetary damages as a result of costs caused by global climate change. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the energy companies on a legal technical issue.

“The high court decided that the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals did not correctly analyze whether the case could be heard in federal court,” according to Reuters.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.