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Shell’s historic loss in The Hague is a turning point in the fight against big oil

The Guardian

Opinion
Fossil fuels
Shell’s historic loss in The Hague is a turning point in the fight against big oil

Tessa Khan

The oil giants that have helped drive the climate crisis are finally being forced to take responsibility for their actions

Tuesday 1 June 2021

On a rainy afternoon in The Hague, the district court delivered a judgment against Royal Dutch Shell, the parent company of the Shell group. It refuted the excuses regularly relied on to continue extracting oil and gas and vindicated longstanding calls to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The court held that Shell’s current policy of merely reducing the “carbon intensity” of its products by 20% by 2030, and aiming to reach net zero by 2050, would contribute to climate impacts that endanger the human rights of the plaintiffs.

The extraordinary events preceding the oil industry’s so-called Black Wednesday bring to mind the proverbial path to bankruptcy: it happens gradually, and then all at once.

The door to real corporate accountability for the climate crisis is finally wide open.

No discussion of the case should omit the fearlessness and perseverance of the plaintiffs and their lawyers, led by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), a cohort of other Dutch NGOs, and more than 17,000 individual co-plaintiffs. To take on one of the world’s richest, most powerful companies in court is brave in any circumstances. To do so when the arguments you are making are unprecedented is extraordinary. That courage has paid off in ways that may change the course of history.

FULL ARTICLE

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