Earlier today in the Hague, the oil giant Shell received an historic court summons demanding it to reduce its carbon emissions in line with internationally recognized climate goals. The lawsuit is known as #ThePeoplevsShell.

The legal action is being brought by Friends of the Earth Netherlands and other NGOs on behalf of more than 30,000 people from 70 countries. There are thousands of co-plaintiffs too.

Many of these turned up today to help hand in the summons.

The legal case has been a long time coming and is ground-breaking by trying to force Big Oil to be accountable for its actions and to stop polluting with impunity.

In April 2018, Friends of the Earth Netherlands sent a notice of liability to Shell, demanding the oil company reduce its oil and gas activities in the next couple of decades in order to help prevent dangerous climate change. The response from Shell was that it did not accept liability for its actions.

In today’s summons, the claimants argue that Shell’s business model poses a threat to the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. The plaintiffs contend that Shell is violating its legal duty of care and is endangering human rights and lives. Shell is therefore acting unlawfully, they claim.

Donald Pols, Director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, said: “Shell’s directors still do not want to say goodbye to oil and gas. They would pull the world into the abyss. The judge can prevent this from happening.”

As part of their evidence, Friends of the Earth Netherlands highlights how Shell has known about climate change since the late fifties. But despite this, the oil giant funded numerous climate denial groups, and still continues to lobby against climate policies as well as invest billions in further oil and gas extraction. “This is incompatible with global climate goals”, the plaintiffs argue.

In addition, the plaintiffs argue that Shell is violating Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to life and the right to family life.

What is interesting is that the Dutch Appeals court has previously created a precedent by ruling that a failure to achieve climate goals leads to human rights violations. The court ordered the Dutch state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020.

Roger Cox is now leading Friends of the Earth’s case against Shell. Cox said: “what we are seeking here is a prevention of future climate harm, instead of looking for financial compensation for loses that have already occurred.”

Cox added: “If successful, the uniqueness of the case would be that Shell, as one of the largest multinational corporations in the world would be legally obligated to change its business operations. We also expect that this would have an effect on other fossil fuel companies, raising the pressure on them to change.”

If Cox and Friends of the Earth win, the court case would rule that Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to zero by 2050, in line with the UN Climate Paris Agreement.

This would have major implications for the oil company, requiring Shell to move away from fossil fuels much more quickly than it currently intends to.

“We feel that we, obviously, have a good chance of also getting an order from the court that will force Shell into more climate action as well. Yes for sure, we do feel that we can win,” says Cox.

If you want to add your name to support Friends of the Earth Netherlands’ legal case against Shell click here