Press release: 26 May 2021

ClientEarth lawyers respond to ground-breaking Dutch court climate-ruling against Shell

A Court in The Hague today ordered Royal Dutch Shell to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030. The landmark verdict was given in response to legal proceedings brought by Friends of the Earth and more than 17,000 individual co-complainants. They argued that Shell breached its ‘duty of care’ both under Dutch civil law and under international human rights law by contributing to climate change.

ClientEarth lawyer Paul Benson said of the result: “This historic verdict serves a clear warning to the fossil fuel industry: either align your business with a safe and stable climate now, or you may be ordered to do so by a court of law.

“High-emitting companies simply cannot ignore the very real litigation risk of failing to act on climate change, nor the cost implications, reputational damage and enhanced stranded asset risk that legal action entails.

“This ground-breaking decision further opens the door for other challenges against big polluters that put dwindling profits before people’s lives.

“We congratulate Friends of the Earth and Milieudefensie for this landmark action. The order that Shell must now cut its emissions by almost half in line with the Paris Agreement is a major win in itself, but the bigger implication is that other major polluters will also be looking over their shoulder. The judgment shows that the Paris climate pact has teeth – not just for governments, but for companies too.

“As our recent research shows, Shell’s advertising is greenwashing: extolling the virtues of its net-zero ambition, but with no clear path to get there – while simultaneously expanding its fossil fuel gas operations.

“Today, the Dutch Court has stepped in.”

More information on the verdict is available here.


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.