January 22, 2021

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The unique climate case against Shell begins with a tug-of-war about vulnerability NOW

The unique climate case against Shell begins with a tug-of-war about vulnerability NOW

In The Hague on Tuesday, the first day of the climate action against Shell, the focus was mainly on the admissibility of the plaintiffs. An important issue for Shell because if the plaintiffs are inadmissible, their claims do not have to be assessed in terms of content.

Milieudefensie started the case on behalf of other organizations and 17,000 citizens because they want Shell to drastically reduce its CO2 emissions: by 45 percent by 2030. The organization says that without large companies like Shell it is impossible to meet the climate targets reach, and therefore wants to enforce a change of course for the oil and gas giant through the courts.

Shell tried to prevent this on Tuesday by declaring the plaintiffs inadmissible. The multinational company argued that legal proceedings cannot accurately assess the disadvantages people are suffering from climate change. “Plaintiffs are mistakenly suggesting that the consequences are the same for everyone in the world. However, those consequences can vary by country, region and even local,” Shell lawyers say. Without considering all of the individual circumstances, they argue that it cannot be assessed whether Shell is acting illegally, as plaintiffs argue.

According to Milieudefensie, however, the interests of all plaintiffs are undisputed, as everyone benefits from a healthy climate: both current and future generations. The organization calls for a significant reduction in the CO2 emissions Shell causes from the extraction and sale of fossil fuels within ten years. According to plaintiffs, taking action against Shell, as one of the largest players in the industry, could be very effective and spark similar lawsuits in other countries.

Shell does not believe the plaintiffs can really achieve anything with the lawsuit. According to the lawyers, dividing the demands would not counteract climate change at all. Other players in the market would “jump in the hole” if the judge whistled Shell back.

Shell’s lawyers also argue that not only Dutch law applies, but also the law of other countries in which Shell operates. Milieudefensie ignores that.