Recently in The Netherlands, a group of over 17,000 citizens and several environmental groups sued Shell, asking the Court to require the company to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide by 2030 by 45% of 2019 emission levels. Milieudefensie (“Friends of the Earth Netherlands”) is heading this case. Shell has publicly agreed that change is needed to address climate change, but says that court action is not the appropriate avenue to accomplish this necessary change. This standpoint is all too familiar in the United States, where energy companies sued in climate litigation over the past few years have made the same argument, claiming that regulatory changes are the appropriate avenue to address our climate crisis, not litigation.
By the year 2050, Shell pledged to reduce its emissions to net zero, claiming it will accomplish this goal through further investment in offshore wind, solar power, biofuels, and reduction in operation emissions. Shell pushes the onus on the public, claiming that it is only keeping up with the demand for gas and oil that the public continues to purchase. Just last year, the Dutch Supreme Court ordered a reduction in Netherlands wide emissions by the end of 2020 by 25% in comparison with emissions levels from 1990.
Five years post-signature of the Paris Agreement, many are disappointed by the lack of progress around the world to decrease emissions and address the climate crisis. This is likely a big influence for the climate lawsuits we are seeing pop up in various countries. While the energy industry continues to argue that regulation should pave the way to a solution to climate change, legislatures around the world have not stepped up to that task to date.
CMBG3 Law’s Environmental practice group helps to navigate our clients through litigation, compliance, and regulatory matters, including issues related to climate change and climate risk management. For more information about our Environmental practice, please visit us or contact Alexandra Fraher for more information.