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Expect A Wave Of Climate Lawsuits Against Big Oil Following Shell's Case

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The environmental group which scored a big win against Shell in court on Wednesday is already helping fellow organizations to sue other Big Oil companies over their contribution to climate change in what could be wave of lawsuits globally.

On Wednesday, a Dutch court ordered Shell to slash its carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 in a landmark ruling that could set precedents for other oil companies and that orders the supermajor to cut the net carbon emissions, not the intensity of those emissions as Shell has set in its climate policy.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands filed the lawsuit against Shell in the Netherlands and is now helping other organizations to force emissions reductions at other companies in other countries.

“We are already supporting other organizations to set up similar cases in their countries,” Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, told Bloomberg on Thursday.

“This court case and verdict open a whole new approach to climate litigation and because of its success it will be copied by other civil society organizations in the rest of the world,” Pols said.

Commenting on the Dutch court ruling against Shell, Andy Palmen, interim director of Greenpeace Netherlands, said:

“We can hold multinational corporations worldwide accountable for the climate crisis.”

According to Verisk Maplecroft’s Environmental Risk Outlook 2021, legal liabilities related to climate are becoming more mainstream as nearly 3,000 cases have been lodged since the start of the century, “primarily aimed at changing government policy or claiming compensation from fossil fuel companies for their contributions to global heating.”

North America and Europe are the most common venues for such litigation, but lawsuits are now being brought in major emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, Verisk Maplecroft’s Climate Litigation Index shows.

According to a Thursday report by climate think tank Carbon Tracker, the largest international oil and gas companies have all strengthened their climate policies in the last 12 months, “yet none have plans that give investors confidence their business is fully aligned with the Paris Agreement.”

“To align with the Paris Agreement, companies must commit to absolute reductions in carbon emissions from their oil and gas products, with strong interim targets and a credible implementation plan,” said Mike Coffin, Carbon Tracker senior analyst and report author.

Eni, Total, and BP have absolute reduction targets, with Eni having the strongest climate policies. U.S. firms ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and Exxon are the bottom three in the 10-strong list that Carbon Tracker reviewed.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for

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