Shell taken to court for insufficient action against climate change

Today Shell goes to court in The Hague for not doing enough to combat climate change. Milieudefensie and six other civil society organizations initiated the lawsuit and are joined by 17,000 citizens.

Milieudefensie says Shell is producing an unacceptable amount of CO2 emissions from burning oil and gas, and that these emissions should be reduced by 45% by 2030 compared to 1990, reports NOS.

This will be the first time that an oil and gas company is taken to court over climate change. International interest is high, and Milieudefensie plan to take more large oil companies to court should this lawsuit end in their favour.

“Careless and Unfounded”

Shell reacted to the lawsuit on their website, explaining that they too want cleaner energy and are already taking steps to reduce their emissions to zero by 2050. They have plans to start selling sustainable energy, biofuels and hydrogen. Shell sees the lawsuit as “careless and unfounded”.

But Milieudefensie has called Shell’s promises empty. Currently, Shell invests tens of billions of euros, around 95% of all expenditures, on oil and gas. “If you do not embrace the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Donald Pols of Milieudefensie, “then you strangle it.”

But according to Shell, it is up to governments to establish clear goals for changing the behaviour of consumers and companies.

Paris Climate Agreement

Up until now, it has mainly been governments who were taken to court over climate change. This is because the 200 governments who signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 can be legally held responsible for failing to meet its standards.

On the other hand, Shell is a private company that was not a part of the Paris Climate Agreement, so the question is whether they can be held accountable for not following its requirements.

Milieudefensie believe that they should, because otherwise achieving climate goals will be impossible. They explain that Shell is one of the ten largest emitters in the world. “On its own, Shell emits twice as much CO2 as the Netherlands.”

The organisation recognize that they are fighting a global giant. “It feels a bit like David against Goliath, but we feel supported by many: Shell is richer and more powerful than some countries, but it is constantly avoiding its responsibility to solve the climate crisis. That is no longer possible…climate does not wait.”

Are you happy to see Shell going to court over climate change? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature Image: Kent Smith/Photographic Services/Shell International Limited

Emily Burger
Emily Burger
Emily grew up in South Africa but has also lived in Egypt, the UK, Canada and now the Netherlands. She first came here for her Bachelors in Arts and Culture at Maastricht University and soon fell in love with the land of canals, clogs and cheese. When she's not daydreaming about sci-fi movies or countries yet to explore, you can find her writing for DutchReview.


  1. The undemocratic success of Urgenda is clearly giving other groups the confidence to try a legal approach against businesses. The end point will surely be lawsuits against individuals for driving the ‘wrong’ kind of car, going on the ‘wrong’ kind of holiday, or even buying the ‘wrong’ groceries.

    The article above rightly states that only governments are subject to the Paris Climate Agreement. Commonsense and legal correctness requires that the Milieudefensie case is dismissed.

  2. Telling shell to lower its carbon emissions is like telling a baker to bake less bread; it’s madness.

    Just like a baker doesn’t eat the bread they bake, shell doesn’t burn the fuel they supply.


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