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Critics accuse Shell of sending ‘wrong signal’ by appealing climate change ruling

© BloombergShell gas

Shell has been accused of sending out the “wrong signal” after confirming plans to challenge a court ruling ordering it to accelerate emissions cuts.

Environmental groups that brought the case against Shell said the company was “wasting time” with its appeal, which they branded “dangerous for our future”.

Ben van Beurden, the oil supermajor’s chief executive, insisted that Shell understood “urgent action” was needed in order to tackle climate change.

However, he said that a legal judgement against a single company is “not effective” and, as a result, the British-Dutch firm will appeal.

In May, environmental campaigners struck a big blow when a court in The Hague ordered the Anglo-Dutch supermajor to cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels.

Shell, which has a net zero goal by 2050, previously committed to lowering the carbon intensity of its products by 20% by the end of the decade.

The company recently put its energy transition strategy before shareholders, with 89% voting in favour of it.

Mr van Beurden said: “We agree urgent action is needed and we will accelerate our transition to net zero. But we will appeal because a court judgment, against a single company, is not effective.

“What is needed is clear, ambitious policies that will drive fundamental change across the whole energy system. Climate change is a challenge that requires both urgent action and an approach that is global, collaborative and encourages coordination between all parties.”

As per the terms of the ruling, Shell has free reign to cut its emissions as it sees fit.

But analysts have predicted that could lead the energy giant farming out its assets to less experienced operators, potentially leading to an overall increase in global emissions.

The landmark court case was brought forward by a cohort of environmental groups and 17,000 Dutch residents.

Six people stand on a pavement holding pictures, with a poster behind © Bart Hoogveld
Milieudefensie celebrates a win over Shell on May 26, 2021<br />Photo: Bart Hoogveld

Donald Pols, head of one of the non-government organisations, Milieudefensie, the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, said Shell’s decision to appeal the decision sends out the “wrong signal”.

He said: “Shell should act now, as the judge ordered. The longer the delay the more serious the climate consequences will be for us all.

“We are all facing an enormous task in tackling the climate crisis. The court has ordered Shell to drastically reduce its emissions. This appeal aims to postpone any action from Shell and is dangerous for our future.”

Roger Cox, a lawyer for Milieudefensie, added: “The judges have passed a well-considered judgment on Shell in the verdict. We are confident that this judgment will be re-affirmed on appeal. The science is clear on the consequences of and solutions to dangerous climate change.”

Sara Shaw, climate justice & energy coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, said: “The Shell verdict is a climate justice victory for movements and communities affected by climate change across the world. We have no doubt that it will lead to legal wins against other big polluters.

“Shell should not waste time in appealing: history, science and justice are on our side. There is no time to waste in tackling the climate crisis.”

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