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Those following climate litigation are familiar with the landmark 2021 Dutch ruling against Shell. However, if you don’t remember or don’t spend time knee-deep in foreign judgments against carbon majors, here is a recap:

In 2019 an NGO (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) brought a lawsuit against Shell plc (formerly Royal Dutch Shell plc) alleging that the company owed a duty of care under Dutch tort law to reduce its CO2 emissions. The trial court agreed and ordered Shell to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels. While initially signaling that it would take steps to comply with the ruling, Shell’s position shifted, evidently hedging their bets on an appeal. The time for that appeal to be heard has now come Bloomberg writes:

“Shell Plc will come head-to-head with the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth on Tuesday to appeal a landmark 2021 ruling ordering the oil and gas giant to slash its emissions by the end of the decade. The decision could prove to be a watershed moment for the oil industry in Europe, where major companies embraced the transition to clean energy during the pandemic but have since pivoted back toward fossil fuels as a surge in oil and gas prices delivered record profits. Just last month, Shell weakened its targets for emissions reductions in the coming decade.”

A win for Shell would provide relief from the original 2021 order requiring the company to reduce emissions across scopes 1, 2, and 3. However, a loss could prove devastating as Shell would be required to hit the original target of 45% GHG reduction by 2030 which appears contradictory to the company’s recent efforts in doubling down on fossil fuels. It’s unclear how Shell would respond to a negative ruling – might the company attempt to exit the Netherlands altogether as a possible strategy? It seems unlikely, but this could be an existential matter for Shell’s future that calls for drastic action.

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Photo credit: Alexandr Blinov –

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile