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Irish welcome for court ruling ordering Shell to slash carbon emissions

Caroline O'Doherty - Irish Independent

Landmark verdict is first time corporation has been held legally liable for causing climate change


IRISH environmentalists have welcomed a court ruling requiring oil giant Shell to slash its carbon emissions.

The verdict is the first time a company has been held legally liable for causing dangerous climate change and ordered to take immediate steps to halt the damage.

“This ruling signals the end for ‘Big Oil and Gas’,” said Emma Jayne Geraghty of Friends of the Earth Ireland, whose Dutch sister organisation, Milieudefensie, took the case.

“Fossil fuel companies like Shell have a unique responsibility for the climate crisis. Their continued drilling for gas and oil is totally incompatible with maintaining a planet that is safe for life.”

 Shell is a Dutch company but the ruling, from a court in The Hague, applies to its entire global operations which are based in more than 80 countries, including Ireland.

The ruling states it must cut its carbon emissions by 45pc within 10 years. The company insists it is doing its bit for climate action and will reduce the carbon intensity of its products by 2050.

The court ruled that target was too vague, too distant, inadequate and relied on self-policing.

Shell responded with a declaration that it would appeal the ruling.

“We are investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy, including electric vehicle charging, hydrogen renewables and biofuels,” it said in a statement.


“We want to grow demand for these products and scale up our new energy businesses even more quickly.

“We will continue to focus on these efforts and full expect to appeal today’s disappointing court decision.”

Lawyer Roger Cox, who represented the campaigners, said if Shell did not comply with the ruling, it left itself open to financial penalties.

“But we expect a multinational company of Royal Dutch Shell’s standing to comply with a court ruling,” he said.

Donald Pols, director of Milieudefensie, said all the legal papers had been translated and distributed to other campaign groups around the world in preparation for similar cases against other global corporations.

“The green wave that began in Hague will be felt in boardrooms all over the world,” he said.

Shell was responsible for development of the controversial Corrib gas field off Co Mayo, which it sold in 2017.

The company has recently announced a joint venture with an Irish developer with plans to build a floating wind farm off the south coast.

It is also involved in the supply of aviation fuel to Ireland and trades in the Irish gas market.

The implications of the court ruling suggest Shell would have to abandon any new drilling plans and begin withdrawal from existing sites.

At a press conference following the verdict, Mr Pols said it would be up to the company Shell to find ways to comply.

“Shell has some of the smartest people in the world working for it on some of the most difficult and dangerous projects in the world. This will be a piece of cake for the company,” he said.

Among the claims accepted by the court were that Shell’s carbon emissions are equivalent to nine times that of the Netherlands, that the impact of the emissions was causing dangerous climate change, and that the company knew about the damage for many years but had delayed acting on its knowledge.

Posted Date: 
27 May 2021