In June 2021, a watershed ruling from a Dutch court ordered fossil fuels giant Shell to reduce their emissions. This marked the first major victory against a fossil fuels company in a climate case and the success resulted in more cases being brought on similar grounds (Shell has not complied with the ruling and appeals are ongoing). Now, the NGO that brought the Shell case, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, is targeting the Netherlands’s largest bank ING – arguing that financing fossil fuels violates their duty of care under Dutch law “to not create any danger that could lead to avoidable damage to property or personal injury.” Financial Times reports that the lawsuit:
“Covers all of ING’s greenhouse gas emissions including so-called indirect emissions from companies that the bank does business with and emissions generated through its lending and underwriting activities.”
This is the first time I’ve seen litigation based on financed emissions. A similar complaint was filed with French authorities alleging the financing of human rights violations and deforestation – close but no cigar. This could be another watershed moment for climate litigation. If the case is successful, it may trigger further litigation over financed emissions, which would raise risks of investing in high-emitting sectors. This could have a serious impact on fossil fuel financing, already facing growing pressure from other factors. A ruling isn’t likely anytime soon, and the result of the appeal in the Shell case could have an impact on this as it develops. This is one more thing we’re keeping a close eye on.
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