A group of environmental organisations backed by thousands of Dutch citizens has launched a civil case against energy giant Shell. Milieudefensie, the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth is asking a judge to order the multinational to commit to reining in its carbon emissions by 45% by the year 2030.

They claim the company broke Dutch law by knowingly hampering the global phase-out of fossil fuels.

It’s the latest in a string of cases around the world in which activists are using the courtroom as a venue to fight for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from governments and companies.

At the opening of the case, presiding judge Larissa Alwin said “claimers demand that the court rule that what the defendant is doing is unlawful, and in addition to order the respondent (Shell) to reduce the CO2 emissions produces and controls by the respondent (Shell) in line with the global climate goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Ahead of the opening of hearings at the Hague District Court, Shell said in a statement that it agrees with Friends of the Earth that action is needed to cut emissions, but said that the company cannot do it alone.

“What will accelerate the energy transition is effective policy, investment in technology and changing customer behaviour. None of which will be achieved with this court action.”

They also said it had set “an ambition to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, or sooner.”

Director of Milieudefensie Netherlands (Friends of the Earth), Donald Pols said “the main argument of Shell is that everybody is responsible: the consumer, the state, the international community, everybody is responsible except Shell, except the biggest polluter of the Netherlands, one of the 10 biggest polluters in the world. And we are going to change that.”

The Shell case, which has more than 17,000 claimants, follows a groundbreaking 2015 court ruling — later upheld by an appeals court — that ordered the Dutch government to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.

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