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thenational.scot: Environmental group takes legal action against Shell

By Karin Goodwin Reporter: 19 Jan 2020

A GROUNDBREAKING legal case being taken against oil company Shell could have dramatic consequences for the Dutch company’s Scottish North Sea operations, it has been claimed by environmental organisations.

The legal action, being led by Friends of the Earth (FOE) Netherlands on behalf of more than 30,000 people from 70 countries, aims to compel the company to “cease its destruction of the climate”.

Plaintiffs in the case argue that Shell is violating its duty of care and threatening human rights by knowingly undermining the world’s chances to stay below 1.5C, the level agreed to be critical by the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Key evidence includes documents, dated from the 1980s, that show Shell – along with other key fossil fuel companies – knew that their actions would cause climate change. The documents were published in 2018 by news site De Correspondent.

Shell replied to the FOE court summons – made in April last year – last November and it is expected the case will come to court this summer. Campaigners claim it is likely to be looked upon more favourably by the Dutch legal system than would be elsewhere.

READ MORE: Extinction Rebellion block entrance to Shell’s Aberdeen HQ

Roger Cox, who is leading the legal team, also won a landmark climate case in 2015 that insisted the Dutch government should set more ambitious emissions targets.

Campaigners said if the case was to succeed it would force Shell to stop all new oil exploration in the North Sea and make a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and into renewables, which currently account for just 5% of Shell’s investments.

Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, told the Sunday National: “Together with the other oil majors, Shell is one of the main actors responsible for climate change.

“I’m surprisingly hopeful [of winning]. This is one of the most complex types of legal cases there is, so of course it will be a challenge.

“But if we look at the arguments, and the responses, I think you can see there really is a case. I’m trying not to be too dramatic but if the judge finds in our favour it could be as significant as the Paris Accord in terms of the impact on mitigating against climate change. It would mean Shell ending all new projects and shifting into renewables.”

As part of its net-zero targets, Shell is decommissioning some of its North Sea rigs and says it is “committed” to offshore wind developments in the future and it has spent billions on low-carbon technologies.

But it is also still “fully committed” to oil and gas in the North Sea with seven final investment decisions made last year, and campaigners say it is not transitioning quickly enough.

This month Shell has been targeted by Extinction Rebellion Scotland in a series of actions targeting the fossil fuel industry and aimed at highlighting the need for multinationals – and the Scottish Government– to take action. Pols said protests against Shell elsewhere were encouraging to Dutch campaigners. “We see the actions taken in Scotland and elsewhere and they empower us,” he added.

A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Scotland said: “We want Shell and the rest of the fossil fuel industry to tell the truth about their role in the climate crisis, and to halt their billion dollar misinformation and lobbying campaign to undermine belief in climate science and action on climate change.”

Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “No oil company is yet taking moral responsibility for the product they produce but the Dutch court case could be the first time a major fossil fuel industry player had to face the fact that they cannot continue to simply blame everyone using their products for the climate emergency.

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