A Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to drastically deepen planned greenhouse gas emission cuts on Wednesday, in a landmark ruling that could trigger legal action against energy companies around the world.
Shell said it was “disappointed” and plans to appeal the ruling, which comes amid rising pressure on energy companies from investors, activists and governments to shift away from fossil fuels and rapidly ramp up investment in renewables. Shell said that it has set out its plan to become a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050.
Judge Larisa Alwin read out a ruling at a court room in The Hague, ordering Shell (RDSa.L) to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels.
The lawsuit, which was filed by seven groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Netherlands, marks a first in which environmentalists have turned to the courts to try to force a major energy firm to change strategy.
It was filed in April 2019 on behalf of more than 17,000 Dutch citizens who say Shell is threatening human rights as it continues to invest billions in the production of fossil fuels.
Shell, which is the world’s top oil and gas trader, has said its carbon emissions peaked in 2018, while its oil output peaked in 2019 and was set to drop by 1% to 2% per year.
While its climate targets surpass those of its U.S. rivals such as Exxon (XOM.N) and Chevron (CVX.N), which ignore emissions from the combustion of its fuels, the Anglo-Dutch company’s spending will remain tilted towards oil and gas in the near future.
A rapid reduction in its carbon dioxide emissions would effectively force it to quickly move away from oil and gas.