A coalition of environmental groups issued Shell a court summons Friday demanding the company shift course from its fossil fuel business model and act on its responsibility to stop fueling the climate crisis.
The legal fight is “not only to protect present generations but also to protect future generations,” according to the document (pdf).
“Shell’s directors still do not want to say goodbye to oil and gas,” Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, said in a statement. “They would pull the world into the abyss. The judge can prevent this from happening.”
The document was delivered to Shell’s international headquarters in the Hague, with Friends of the Earth Netherlands, ActionAid NL, Both ENDS, Fossielvrij NL, Greenpeace NL, Young Friends of the Earth NL, and Waddenvereniging acting as co-plaintiffs. It starts legal processing against the company after it brushed off (pdf) a notice of liability last year. The summons calls for the fossil fuel giant to appear in the District Court of The Hague on April 17, 2019.
Speaking about the case to Friends of the Earth’s Real World Radio, Roger Cox, the lawyer representing the co-plaintiffs, explained its groundbreaking nature.
“This is a particular unique case because what we are seeking here is a prevention of future climate harm, instead of looking for financial compensation for loses that have already occurred,” he said.
The summons says that the company is making “substantial” contributions towards global carbon emissions, continues to pursue fossil fuels despite knowing their contribution to the climate crisis, and has an obligation under Dutch law to act on the Paris climate goals.
Cox told RWR that “we also feel that the time is now to make these changes and use the law as an instrument to accelerate the energy transition and to achieve the Paris goal.”
While the case has a lofty goal, “we do feel that we can win,” he said. As he explained in a statement, this could have far-reaching effects.
“If successful, the uniqueness of the case would be that Shell, as one of the largest multinational corporations in the world, would be legally obligated to change its business operations. We also expect that this would have an effect on other fossil fuel companies, raising the pressure on them to change.”
That change can’t come fast enough, added Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law.
“Today’s suit against Shell sends a clear signal that business as usual is no longer acceptable.” —Carroll Muffett, Center for International Environmental Law.
“The IPCC has warned that window of action for avoiding irreversible and truly catastrophic climate harms is narrow and closing rapidly. Today’s suit against Shell sends a clear signal that business as usual is no longer acceptable. Companies that continue ignoring climate risks can and will be held legally accountable and financially responsible for their actions.”
“Investors and corporate decision-makers who ignore this new reality,” she said, “do so at their peril.”