Netherlands: ‘Cataclysmic day’ for oil companies sparks climate hope

A “cataclysmic day” for three major oil companies in which investors rebelled over climate fears and a court-ordered fossil fuel emissions to be slashed has sparked hope among campaigners, investors, lawyers and academics who said the historic decisions marked a turning point in efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

On Wednesday, a Dutch court ordered Shell to cut carbon emissions from its oil and gas by 45% by 2030. A tiny activist investor group simultaneously won two places on ExxonMobil’s board and Chevron’s management was defeated when investors voted in favour of forcing the group to cut its carbon emissions.

Chevron is second on the list of fossil fuel firms with the biggest cumulative carbon emissions, ExxonMobil is third and Shell sixth.

“It may be the most cataclysmic day so far for the fossil fuel industry,” said the climate campaigner and author Bill McKibben. “If you want to keep the temperature low enough that civilisation will survive, you have to keep coal and oil and gas in the ground. That sounded radical a decade ago. Now it sounds like the law.”

Sara Shaw at Friends of the Earth International said: “This is a landmark victory for climate justice. Our hope is that the Shell verdict will trigger a wave of climate litigation against big polluters.”

Andy Palmen of Greenpeace Netherlands said: “The verdict is a historic victory. We can now hold multinational corporations accountable for the climate crisis.”

Andrew Logan at Ceres, which coordinates climate action by investors, told the Financial Times: “This will be seen in retrospect as the day when everything changed for big oil. How the industry chooses to respond to this clear signal will determine which companies thrive through the coming transition and which wither.”

Nick Stansbury from Legal and General Investment Management said: “There is a valid question about whether this is a watershed moment in the same way the first big tobacco legal suits were.”

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