A Dutch court ruled Wednesday that Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, must accelerate its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change.
The District Court in The Hague ruled that Shell was “obliged” to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions of its activities by 45 percent at the end of 2030 compared with 2019. Shell is based in The Hague but is a global producer and supplier of oil and natural gas and other energy.
Shell has already adopted targets for emissions reduction, but the court requirements are likely to represent a substantial acceleration of the process of reducing emissions-producing fuels like oil and gas.
The ruling applies only in the Netherlands. Still, the defeat of an oil giant in a case brought by Milieudefensie, an environmental group, and other activists appeared to represent a kind of breakthrough in terms of a court’s willingness to dictate to a major business what it must do globally to protect the climate.
“The court understands that the consequences could be big for Shell,” Jeannette Honée, a spokeswoman for the court, said in a video on the court website.
“But the court believes that the consequences of severe climate change are more important than Shell’s interests,” she added.
The court appeared to have accepted the environmentalists’ argument that not taking drastic measures on climate change would put lives in jeopardy.
“Severe climate change has consequences for human rights, including the right to life. And the court thinks that companies, among them Shell, have to respect those human rights,” Ms. Honée said.
A Shell spokesman said that the company expected “to appeal today’s disappointing court decision.”
The company said that it already had an extensive program to deal with climate change including billions of dollars of investment in low carbon energy including hydrogen, renewables like wind and solar and electric vehicle charging.