Royal Dutch Shell has appealed against a Dutch court order that it must step up the pace of its global emissions cuts, arguing the company has been unfairly singled out and that tackling climate change requires “co-ordination”.
Chief executive Ben van Beurden said that while Shell supported “urgent” action to address climate change, the May ruling mandating a 45 per cent reduction in the energy group’s net global carbon emissions by 2030 had not taken account of the full extent of Shell’s own plans.
“A court judgment, against a single company, is not effective,” Van Beurden said. “What is needed is clear, ambitious policies that will drive fundamental change across the whole energy system . . . We will appeal because climate change is a challenge that requires both urgent action and an approach that is global, collaborative and encourages co-ordination between all parties.”
The company argued that the court ruling, which is legally binding, had not considered Shell’s own “Powering Progress” strategy published in April, as the initial hearings in the trial had been held earlier.
Shell has committed to become a net zero company by 2050 and started to increase investments in alternative energy sources with longer-term plans to produce less oil. It says it believes its emissions peaked in 2018 and that its oil production did so in 2019, although critics say it is likely to remain a significant producer of fossil fuels for decades to come under its plans.
The case in the Netherlands was brought by the Dutch wing of Friends of the Earth Milieudefensie along with other NGOs.
Donald Pols, Milieudefensie director, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that Shell would be better off investing “its money and energy in preventing dangerous climate change” rather than appealing the order. “The longer Shell waits, the more serious the consequences for all of us.”
Judge Larisa Alwin ruled in May that Shell’s existing climate strategy was not concrete enough and that there was a human rights obligation on the company to take further action.
She said the ruling would have “far-reaching consequences” for the Anglo-Dutch company but that it was up to Shell how to execute the order.
Van Beurden said in June that Shell would “rise to the challenge” and that while the court order would not change the group’s strategy, it would lead to “an acceleration” in its plans.
Shell unveiled plans this year to cut the carbon intensity of the fossil fuels it produces and sells by 6 per cent by 2023, 20 per cent by 2030 and 45 per cent by 2035, compared with 2016 levels.
Carbon intensity is a measurement of carbon per megajoule of energy sold, rather than the absolute measure of the amount of carbon emitted that campaigners have long lobbied for.
Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Explore the FT’s coverage here.
Are you curious about the FT’s environmental sustainability commitments? Find out more about our science-based targets here