In a landmark case brought by seven environmental groups, a Dutch court Wednesday ordered energy company Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) to cut its carbon emissions by net 45% from 2019 levels by 2030.
The ruling could set a precedent for similar cases against polluting multinationals, particularly petroleum companies, around the world.
The environmental groups, which included the Dutch chapter of Greenpeace, filed the suit in 2019 on behalf of 17,000 Dutch citizens. The groups had argued RDS was in breach of its obligation to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
In her decision, Hague District Court Judge Larissa Alwin ruled that since the Anglo-Dutch energy giant currently has a plan to reduce emissions and was still developing it, it is not currently in breach of its obligation, as the groups argued.
But the judge said a violation of that obligation is imminent, as the company’s 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.
She ordered the company to make the 45% cuts by 2030, which would be in line with the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change.
The case in the Netherlands is the latest in a string of legal challenges filed around the world by climate activists seeking action to rein in emissions, but it is believed to be the first targeting a multinational company.
In statement ahead of the ruling, RDS has said litigation will do little to accelerate the world’s transition away from fossil fuels.