I am proud to be one of the 17,000 co-plaintiffs alongside Milieudefensie and other organisations who sued Royal Dutch Shell. And today, we won. The court agreed that the human rights consequences of climate breakdown are more important than the company’s right to operate freely and profit from fossil fuels. This is unprecedented.
One day we will look back and say, “obviously”. But until yesterday, it wasn’t clear if radical, global emission reductions could be enforceable to a private entity. Today, a judge in the Hague ruled that the multinational, which operates in 80 countries, has to nearly halve its emissions within this decade. 5 percentage points per year.
Crucially, this includes the emissions caused by the customers and suppliers of Shell’s dirty, dangerous, destructive commodities. And since we are talking absolute reductions, it unambiguously implies shrinking the oil and gas major’s business. No accounting trick nor ‘net’ offset scheme will be enough to pretend otherwise.
Shell will be forced to keep it in the ground. There will be financial consequences. There will be falling profits and reduced dividends. There will be discontent among the shareholders. There will be a reshuffling of the board. But one thing will not happen: Shell will not precipitate its own end. They would go rogue rather than comply.
This means it will be up to us to carry out the ruling and bring about a Future Beyond Shell. We will be there to make sure the company is nationalised, its shareholders dispossessed, its assets stranded, its infrastructure dismantled, its victims compensated and its workers retrained —to repair the damage and reverse the carbon cycle.
This is, by all means, just the beginning. Shell only amounts to about 4.5% of global emissions. We have more battles to fight. May this decision send ripples across the industry, heralding that the time is up for fossil capital. May this victory amplify and accelerate the just transition. It is now, more than ever, time to make Shell history. Let’s go.