The Climate lawsuit against Shell

Both ENDS is co-plaintiff in the climate lawsuit being brought by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth The Netherlands) against Shell to stop the company from causing harm to the climate. Shell has known about the severity of the climate problem for many years but continues with the climate-polluting extraction of oil and gas. By doing so, it undermines efforts to achieve the climate goals. Companies have a responsibility not to cause serious harm to society and the climate. Because Shell refuses to take that responsibility itself, we are taking the company to court. In brief, we demand that Shell has zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and adapts its activities to be fully aligned with the climate goals in the Paris Agreement.

Logical step for Both ENDS

It is a logical step for Both ENDS to be co-plaintiff as we have been working together with local environmental and other organisations in developing countries for many decades to combat the consequences of the activities of Shell and other fossil industry businesses for people around the world. We are not demanding compensation, but that Shell changes its course to help prevent climate change. We also hope that this case will lead to changes not only at Shell but also at other oil and gas companies that stand in the way of the energy transition.

Both ENDS’ added value over most of the other co-plaintiffs lies mainly in the link between global climate change, its impact on nature and the environment worldwide and its unprecedented impact on poor people in poor countries. We connect climate change to the Netherlands’ goals for combatting poverty around the world, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Pollution, destruction and climate change

A company such as Shell harms people in the countries where it is active in two ways. Firstly the consequences of climate change, to which the use of Shell’s products makes a significant contribution, disproportionately affect people in developing countries. Secondly the extraction of fossil fuels destroys ecosystems on a large scale, which not only causes more climate change but also seriously erodes the livelihoods of local populations: water sources become polluted and agriculture or fishing encounter severe obstacles. Our decision to become co-plaintiffs in this case is therefore based on our duty towards all people who suffer the impact of climate change on a daily basis.  

Investing in fossil fuels is short-term thinking

Climate change and climate policy have always been and continue to be a major theme in our work, primarily because we focus mainly on the poorest and most vulnerable groups in countries in the global South. They suffer most from the consequences of climate change, while they have contributed to it the least. It has been agreed worldwide that emissions of CO2 must be reduced radically to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees. The main condition for achieving that is to prevent new emissions from greenhouse gasses by keeping fossil reserves ’under the ground’. To stay on track with the Paris Agreement, it is therefore very irresponsible to continue extracting and exploiting new oil and gas fields and building the required infrastructure, as Shell continues to do. And yet Shell persuades the governments of countries with fossil reserves to invest in this sector.  As these investments cannot be recovered if we want to take climate goals seriously, investing in sustainable energy should get the highest priority.

Invest in renewable instead of fossil energy

In Tanzania, an extremely poor country, Shell is involved in developing one of the largest gas fields in the world for the international market. The poorest groups are affected the most by these projects; their local environment is being destroyed and the land and water polluted, they are often forced to relocate and do not share in the gas profits with which Shell tempts their governments. By continuing to invest in the fossil sector rather than in sustainable energy, these countries risk becoming highly dependent on export to foreign countries and lagging behind in their own development.

Legal action

In the 30 years during which, together with partner organisations around the whole world, we have fought for climate action, we have seen that nothing has changed in the daily practice of the fossil industry. Even worse, the sector has done everything possible to prevent positive changes. There are very few restrictions on the fossil fuel sector searching for new oil and gas fields and it can make use of a wide variety of financial and other government support without having to account for its role in global warming. In the meantime increasingly large groups of people are suffering the consequences of rising global temperatures so much that they can hardly lead their lives. In our opinion, therefore, taking legal action is necessary to compel companies such as Shell to take real action and we are pleased to be co-plaintiff in this case.


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