Last week’s ruling by a Dutch court that Shell must slash its emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2019 will not help the fight against climate change, says the company’s Netherlands boss.

Shell plans to appeal, but if the ruling stands, it might have a significant impact on the company, Marjan van Loon told the TenneT European Energy conference on Tuesday.

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“Let me be clear that our company, Shell, fully supports that urgent action is needed for climate change. Let there be no doubt about that,” she said, pointing to its stated aim of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

“[But] that’s not what this lawsuit was about.

“We need to solve this [climate challenge] by working together, and therefore a lawsuit against one company, we believe, does not result in changes that really help to address climate change.”

‘We need to do our homework’

The oil giant does not have any plans on how it would meet the court’s target, the president director of Shell Nederland admitted.

“We need to really think now about what this verdict means. We need to do homework. We need to see where we can further step up, but also what our actions will be,” she said.

“Maybe we can still step up somewhere, but we also believe it might have quite significant effects both on my company, but also effects that actually do not serve the purpose of progressing the climate agenda.

“So we need to see what our options are. And I hope you understand that takes a bit of time for us to do that.”

The European Commission executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans — who was also participating in the conference — was immediately asked for his thoughts on the court ruling, and declined to comment on the case directly.

But he did point to similar rulings against governments in Germany, France and the Netherlands to get them to speed up their climate fights.

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“So the judiciary ... is actually holding, until recently, mainly public authorities accountable to the promises they make. And [it is] now also moving, apparently, into the private sector,” Timmermans said.

“How this will develop is very difficult for me to say, but what I would like to say, as a point of principle, [is that] none of us, wherever we are, can just seek refuge in empty declarations about decarbonising what we do. We have to back that up with facts and actions.”

(This article first appeared in Upstream's renewable energy sister publication

Recharge on 2 June, 2021)