On Monday, April 5th, 2019, the environmental group Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands and co-plaintiffs served Shell a court summons alleging Shell’s contributions to climate change violate its duty of care under Dutch law and human rights obligations. The case was filed in the Hague Court of Appeals. Co-plaintiffs include other NGOs (ActionAid NL, Both ENDS, Fossielvrij NL, Greenpeace NL,Young Friends of the Earth NL, Waddenvereniging) and more than 17000 citizens. The plaintiffs seek a ruling from the court that Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to zero by 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
This case builds on the landmark Urgenda decision which found that the Dutch government’s inadequate action on climate change violated a duty of care to its citizens. In the suit against Shell, plaintiffs extend this argument to private companies, arguing that given the Paris Agreement’s goals and the scientific evidence regarding the dangers of climate change, Shell has a duty of care to take action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Plaintiffs base this duty of care argument on Article 6:162 of the Dutch Civil Code as further informed by Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which guarantee rights to life (Article 2) and rights to a private life, family life, home, and correspondence (Article 8). Plaintiffs’ argument outlines how Shell’s long knowledge of climate change, misleading statements on climate change, and inadequate action to reduce climate change help support a finding of Shell’s unlawful endangerment of Dutch citizens and actions constituting hazardous negligence.