Royal Dutch Shell being threatened with legal action unless it boosts efforts to comply with the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Friends of the Earth Netherlands demanded the fuel giant revise plans to invest just 5 per cent in sustainable energy and 95 per cent in oil and gas.
Shell is Europe’s largest oil and gas group, operating in more than 70 countries. It is increasing its investment in green energy to up to US$2 billion a year, but its annual spending is far larger at up to US$30 billion.
The green group said the policy would increase the impact of climate change, especially on the world’s poor and those most prone to flooding. It has told Shell to reform its policy or face action over its international obligations, human rights treaties and laws on hazardous negligence.
In response, Shell said. “The Shell Group’s position on climate change has been a matter of public record for decades.”
Its statement continued: “We strongly support the Paris Agreement and the need for society to transition to a lower carbon future, while also extending the economic and social benefits of energy to everyone. Successfully navigating this dual challenge requires sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers. It requires cooperation between all segments of society.”
The environmental group’s legal chief Roger Cox won a climate case in 2015 against the Dutch government, saying it should set more ambitious emissions targets.
“This is the first case we know of in the world that seeks preventive action from a company over climate change,” Cox said. “We are not asking for damages. We want Shell to steer away from its current course and to get in line with the Paris agreement.”
Shell is one of the world’s 10 biggest carbon emitters but in its 2017 report the Anglo-Dutch firm publicly declared support for the Paris climate deal. It has declared “decarbonisation pathways” to cut its fossil-fuel dependency, but environmentalists criticise the rate of change and the limited investment in renewables and carbon capture.
Friends of the Earth argued that Shell should be held to account for around 2 per cent of its emissions between 1854 and 2010. The activist organisation has previously taken Shell to court for the damage it caused around Nigerian oil fields.
“Currently Shell and companies like it are acting like big tobacco in decades past by failing to take responsibility for the harm that they cause,” said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth CEO. “Shell must now move on from its history of Earth-damaging fossil fuel extraction and play a major part in the transition to a sustainable future, to keep temperature rises to near 1.5°C.”
Environmental activists in kayaks protest at the Polar Pioneer, a Shell oil rig, in Seattle. Picture credit: Flickr