Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Shell’s long term policy of cultivating green friends seems to have come unstuck, with a “Friends of the Earth” lawsuit which insists that Shell re-investing 5% of their profits in renewables simply isn’t good enough.
Shell threatened with legal action over climate change contributions
Friends of the Earth Netherlands on Wednesday demanded the Anglo-Dutch company revise plans to invest only 5% in sustainable energy and 95% in greenhouse-gas emitting oil and gas.
The environmental group said this business strategy would increase the impact of climate change, especially on the world’s poorest people and those most prone to flooding. It has given Shell eight weeks to shift to a cleaner tack, after which it says it is prepared to invoke international obligations, human rights treaties and laws on hazardous negligence.
Heading the group’s legal team is Roger Cox, who led and won a landmark climate case in 2015 that insisted the Dutch government should set more ambitious emissions targets.
“This is the first case we know of in the world that seeks preventive action from a company over climate change,” Cox told the Guardian. “We are not asking for damages. We want Shell to steer away from its current course and to get in line with the Paris agreement.”
“Currently Shell and companies like it are acting like big tobacco in decades past by failing to take responsibility for the harm that they cause,” said Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland. “Shell must now move on from its history of Earth-damaging fossil fuel extraction and play a major part in the transition to a sustainable future, to keep temperature rises to near 1.5C.”
A spokesperson for Shell said the company strongly supported the Paris agreement, “but we believe climate change is a complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers, not by the courts.”
Shell has given generously to green causes for a long time. Thanks in part to all the money Shell and other big oil companies have provided over the years, greens in the Netherlands and much of the rest of Europe are politically very powerful.
In the Netherlands in 2015, greens won a shock court victory – Dutch courts ruled that the government had to do more to cut CO2 emissions. The Dutch government was forced to live up to its green rhetoric. The lawyer who won that case is now coming after Shell.