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In major win for climate activists, Dutch court orders Shell to cut its emissions

In a precedent-setting ruling, a Dutch court ruled Wednesday in favor of environmentalists and more than 1,7000 residents of the Netherlands, by ordering Royal Dutch Shell to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Why it matters: It’s the first court ruling that orders a major oil company to make its emissions plans more consistent with Paris Climate Agreement targets, and it could spur legal action against other oil and gas firms.


Driving the news: The case was brought in April 2019 by Dutch citizens who alleged that Shell's continued oil and gas exploration threatens their human rights by robbing them of a more stable climate. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth also participated in the lawsuit.

The details: The Dutch district court in the Hague ordered Shell to cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to 2019 levels. The court ruled that the energy company's existing emissions reduction plans were insufficient.

  • While many court cases have been brought in the U.S. and elsewhere against governments for not acting to rein in planet-warming greenhouse gases, the Shell ruling is part of a wave of challenges from climate activists that target oil and gas companies.
  • Shell can appeal the ruling.

Of note: Shell has established a more aggressive emissions reduction strategy than many other major oil and gas companies, with the goal of reaching net zero "absolute emissions" in 2050.

Go deeper: Shell CEO: You need us on climate change

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