Other lawyers agree that the consequences of the ruling are far-reaching. “Surprise and courage,” says Elbert de Jong, a private law professor at the University of Utrecht. “Legally, this is a unique case, especially since it’s not yet crystallized how to weigh certain things. As a judge, you may have said: this is a company, rather than a government, period.”
Shell must not only reduce its own emissions, but also have the best efforts to reduce emissions from its customers and suppliers. This means, for example, De Zhang says that Shell must ensure that it delivers other products to its customers with low CO2 emissions. For example charging stations and electric cars.
Although the company could still appeal, the judge said Shell should immediately begin working with it, adding that the judge considered how important and serious the climate issue was. “By this the judge really says: we mean business.” The verdict is clear from the fact that these types of cases in the United States have not yet been a success for environmental organizations, and some are still ongoing.
“This case is as wonderful as the Urgent case,” said Gerid van der Wein, a professor of environmental law at the University of Groningen. He has a reservation for that statement: “A company has actually done what it is allowed to do, pumping oil and gas and now forcing half of its operations.
Van der Wein calls this a “bold statement” that he did not expect. “Does that mean you can take every car driver to court, because in 2030 he will only be allowed to drive halfway? Or will everyone be allowed to go only half a kilometer in the air?”
Rising climate lawsuits are also showing political failure, Marjan Minesma believes. “The government and parliament need to keep each other on their toes. But they’re not doing it enough. The world is going to three degrees warming. So the only power left to do anything about this is the judiciary.”
Conversation with Rutte
However, MilliDefense has urgent advice. “They have to keep a finger on the pulse and check every year whether the shell is on track to achieve the goal. If the shell is to achieve a 45 percent reduction by 2030, that means 4.5 percent each year. Below. Otherwise go to court.”
Minnesma has become wise through experience, he says. The state lost to the Supreme Court in the Urgenta case, but has not yet met its goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2020. “I really expected the government to comply with the law. I think it’s a shame it didn’t happen. I have a meeting with Mark Rutte next Monday. I hope he listens carefully.”
Minnesma had previously stated that it would be clear otherwise he would go back to court.