Environmental groups to sue Shell over climate change

Climate activists delivered a court summons Friday to oil company Shell in a court case aimed at forcing it to do more to rein in carbon emissions.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands, one of the groups involved, said it wants a court in The Hague to order Shell to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to zero by 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Accord.

"Shell's directors still do not want to say goodbye to oil and gas," said the group's director, Donald Pols. "They would pull the world into the abyss. The judge can prevent this from happening."

The summons, more than 250 pages long and backed up by boxes of supporting documents, was wheeled into the headquarters on a trolley as a couple of hundred activists looked on.

The move comes a year after the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth sent a letter to Shell's CEO Ben van Beurden accusing the company of "breaching its legal duty of care" by causing climate damage across the globe.

In a statement, Shell outlined renewable energy projects it is involved in in the Netherlands and said that it agrees climate change action is necessary and that the company is "committed to playing our part."

"We welcome constructive efforts to work together to find solutions to the challenge of climate change, but we do not believe the courtroom is the right venue to address the global climate challenge," the company said.

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

The new case is not seeking compensation; it focuses instead on pushing Shell to take more action to rein in emissions.

Roger Cox, a lawyer who initially represented environmental group Urgenda and is now leading the civil action against Shell, said the two cases are similar because they are based in part on a duty of care enshrined in Dutch law.

"And more specifically the duty to not create dangerous situations for others if these dangerous situations can reasonably be prevented," he said. "So what we in fact are stating is that Shell is contributing to dangerous climate change because its emissions are not in line with what is needed."