Climate activists target banks after Shell court ruling

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Members of the environmental organization MilieuDefensie celebrated the decision of the Dutch environmental organization against Royal Dutch Shell at the court of the Palace of Justice in The Hague on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. The Dutch court ordered Shell to cut its expenses and its emissions were more severe and faster than planned, hitting the oil giant and possibly having a profound impact on other fossil fuel industries around the world.

Peter Ball | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Glasgow, Scotland – According to activists who helped secure the landmark court victory over oil giant Royal Dutch Shell in court, financial institutions and individual board members could be the next targets in climate litigation cases.

This is when countries are scrambling to reach consensus in the final days of the COP26 climate summit. Negotiators from 197 countries are participating in the discussion, and the goal is to maintain the vital global goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

There is no clear indication as to whether the talks can meet the requirements of the climate emergency.

“We have filed a lawsuit against the country and have achieved success,” said Roger Cox, an attorney for Milieudefensie, an environmental movement organization and the Dutch chapter of Friends of the Earth. “Now that we have proven that people can successfully file lawsuits against fossil fuel companies, I think the next step is to start lawsuits against financial institutions that make these emissions and fossil fuel projects possible.”

Cox said on Tuesday: “After that, I even think…the board members of these large private institutions continue to willingly obstruct the Paris Agreement, and may even assume direct liability provisions in the next few years.”

He made the above comments at the Climate Justice People’s Summit, which was organized by the COP26 coalition on the sidelines of the UN-mediated talks in Glasgow, Scotland.

Shell logo seen at a gas station in London. A court in The Hague has ordered the oil giant Shell to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels, which is widely regarded as a landmark case.

SOPA Image | Light Rocket | Getty Images

The Hague District Court in May. On the 26th, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant was ordered to reduce its global carbon emissions by 45% by the end of 2030 compared to 2019 levels. It also stated that Shell is responsible for the carbon emissions of itself and its suppliers, called Scope 3 emissions.

The ruling marks the first time in history that a company is legally obliged to align its policies with the Paris Agreement and reflects a watershed moment in the climate war.

At the time, a Shell spokesperson called the decision “disappointing.” The company has since confirmed that it will appeal the ruling.

‘No one wants to go to court’

“I think that from a legal point of view, the major public and private system participants in climate change and the energy transition may generate a lot of pressure,” Cox said.

He cited young people gathering on the streets to take climate action, radical shareholders trying to pressure board members to reduce emissions, and a blockbuster report by the International Energy Agency that said he believed that “there is no need to invest in new fossils. Fuel supply” can achieve the Paris Agreement. The goal of the agreement.

He added: “All things considered, we now have the best chance to really try to create this fundamental change that needs to happen in the next ten years.”

Environmental lawyer Roger Cox in his office in Vrouwenheide, the Netherlands, on Friday, June 4, 2021. After four days of argument, the Hague court accepted Cox’s reasoning and ruled that Royal Dutch Shell must cut its greenhouses compared to 2019 levels, and will reduce its gas emissions by 45% by 2030.

Peter Ball | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A report released by the Coalition of NGOs in March found that the 60 largest banks in the world have provided fossil fuel companies with US$3.8 trillion in financing since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. The authors of the report described the findings as “shocking” and warned that the out-of-control funding for the extraction of fossil fuels and infrastructure threatens the lives of millions of people around the world.

To be sure, the burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of the climate emergency. Climate scientists have repeatedly emphasized that the best weapon to deal with rising global temperatures is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.

Milieudefensie researcher and activist Nine de Pater said on Tuesday that the campaign team initially tried to persuade Shell to take meaningful climate action through protests and direct dialogue with companies and politicians.

“None of this makes the difference we need,” DePert said. “So, in the end, the last resort is this lawsuit. This is not what you want to do, right? No one wants to go to court. This is not the best thing, but it is really necessary to force Shell to move in a different direction and let Shell stops causing dangerous climate change.”

“It is no longer possible for Shell to put profits above people-this is historical. This is important because it is not just Shell, but now all companies must consider:’Do I put profits above people?'”

During a demonstration in the City of London, a protester held a placard that read “End fossil fuel subsidies.”

Vuk Valcic | SOPA Image | Light Rocket | Getty Images

In confirming the decision to appeal the July court ruling, Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said that the company agreed that urgent climate action is needed, “We will accelerate the transition to net zero emissions.”

“But we will appeal because the court decision against a company is invalid. What we need is clear and ambitious policies to promote fundamental changes in the entire energy system. Climate change is a challenge that requires both urgent action and A global, collaborative approach that encourages coordination among all parties is needed.”

‘Nothing to lose’

When asked what it means for Shell to successfully overturn the appeal ruling of the Dutch court, Cox told CNBC: “This is basically a question we have to ask ourselves before launching a climate lawsuit.”

Cox said that when he prepared the Urgenda climate case against the Dutch government in 2012, he first considered what the court failed. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld this landmark case in December 2019 and determined that the government is obliged to immediately reduce emissions substantially in accordance with its human rights obligations.

“At the time we basically felt that there was nothing to lose. Either we won or we didn’t win, but we thought that if we lost a case, there was nothing to lose,” Cox said. He added that filing a lawsuit and “trying to break the status quo of short-term interests” is a “moral obligation.”

“Obviously, when you start a case like this, you always know that you might lose, but when you lose, there is always something to learn for ourselves or other climate litigation lawyers, and they can use this as a basis,” Cox said. “So, as young people, you will not stop taking to the streets, and we as adults will do the same thing in a certain way, if it does not have an immediate impact. You will continue to do this until it has an impact.”

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