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Shell says it ‘lobbies for energy transition’ during climate ruling appeal
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Shell says it ‘lobbies for energy transition’ during climate ruling appeal

Shell has argued that it “lobbies for, not against, the energy transition” on the final day of its appeal against an important climate ruling.

The fossil fuel company is fighting the decision of a Dutch court in 2021 that forces it to pump 45% less planet-heating CO2 into the atmosphere by 2030 than it did in 2019. In court on Friday, Shell argued the ruling is ineffective, onerous and does not fit into the existing legal system.

Lawyers for Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands), which brought the case against Shell, repeated their calls for the company to act in line with climate science and international agreements to stop extreme weather from growing more violent. They said the outcome of the case will determine how much the climate changes.

“It’s not just about Shell,” said Donald Pols, the Milieudefensie chief executive, after the hearing. “We want to hold all companies accountable – to combat dangerous climate change.”

Shell argued in court that it plays its role in energy transition and pointed to the lobbying it had done in favour of climate policies such as the EU emissions-trading scheme and the US Inflation Reduction Act.

Milieudefensie said it was “quite clear” that Shell had used its social influence to safeguard the role of oil and gas and that it had continued to do so with its policies. In recent months, Shell has backtracked on a series of clean energy ambitions.

“I think it’s a little bit far-fetched from Shell to argue they are in favour of the energy transition, at least to the extent of being in line with the Paris agreement,” said Roger Cox, Milieudefensie’s lawyer in the case.

The appeal wraps up just days after the European court of human rights sided with a group of 2,400 Swiss women who sued their government over its climate policy.

Both Shell and Milieudefensie cited the Swiss case to support their arguments on Friday. Shell argued that the decision of the 17 Strasbourg judges showed it was up to states, rather than companies, to rein in emissions. Milieudefensie said it showed that “judges have an important role to play in the complex debate on preventing dangerous climate change”.

A report last week found that 57 companies are linked to 80% of carbon emissions since 2016, though the bulk of that comes from their customers burning the fuels they sell.

At the appeal, Milieudefensie argued that Shell should not achieve the original emissions reduction target by simply selling off fossil fuel assets, which may then land in the hands of companies with less public scrutiny and dirtier operations. Shell argued that the original ruling gave it the freedom to do so and said the activist group had failed to contest this point by lodging a cross-appeal.

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Frans Everts, director of Shell in the Netherlands, said in the company’s closing remarks that he was concerned by the “unintended consequences” of the lawsuit. He said the activists wanted to limit the supply of Shell’s products before its customers are “able, willing or ready to switch to less fossil fuels”.

He said: “As long as the demand for these products doesn’t change – and people can just go to the competitor – there is not one less carbon molecule in the air. And without a clean alternative to oil and gas products, the energy transition will not benefit either.”

In 2021, after evidence for the original case was filed, the International Energy Agency published a report on reaching net zero emissions by 2050 that found no room for new oil and gas exploration. Companies including Shell have since continued to invest in new oil and gas fields despite protests from climate scientists and activists.

A verdict is expected on 12 November 2024.

Source: theguardian.com