Friends of the Earth is threatening to take Shell to court in the Netherlands over its part in causing climate change.
The NGO has accused the oil & gas giant of “acting like big tobacco” in ignoring the science and damage its activities are doing to the planet.
Friends of the Earth is willing to challenge the energy company for breaching Dutch laws on hazardous negligence if it doesn’t accelerate its plans to combat climate change. This could mean forcing the company to increase its level of renewable energy investments, which the group claims sits at only 5 percent.
Shell, which is headquartered in The Hague, has made initial progress towards moving away from fossil fuels, including investing in hydrogen fuel. It has publicly acknowledging the role energy plays in contributing to climate change and says it supports the goals of the Paris Agreement.
"Science tells us that time isn’t a luxury we have where climate change is concerned. When world leaders met in Paris in 2015 they agreed to end the fossil fuel era, but in the meantime, Shell continues to invest in new oil and gas sources”, said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s Chief Executive in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“Shell must now move on from its history of earth damaging fossil fuel extraction and play a major part in the transition to a sustainable future, to keep temperature rises to near 1.5 degrees Celsius. Currently, Shell and companies like it, are acting like big tobacco in decades past by failing to take responsibility for the harm that they cause”, he added.
The action is the latest in a string of legal cases which are fast becoming the new battleground in the fight against climate change. Earlier this year, compensation cases were brought by both New York City and Los Angeles against some of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world.
New York Mayor de Blasio said at the time: “We’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits”.
Published on Climate Action Programme on April 4, 2018.
Human rights and environment
In recent years, the recognition of the links between human rights and the environment has greatly increased. The number and scope of international and domestic laws, judicial decisions, and academic studies on the relationship between human rights and the environment have grown rapidly.
Many States now incorporate a right to a healthy environment in their constitutions. Many questions about the relationship of human rights and the environment remain unresolved, however, and require further examination.
As a result, in March 2012 the Human Rights Council decided to establish a mandate on human rights and the environment, which will (among other tasks) study the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and promote best practices relating to the use of human rights in environmental policymaking.
Mr. John Knox was appointed in August 2012 to a three-year term as the first Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. His mandate was further extended in March 2015 for another three years as a Special Rapporteur.
The resolution 16/11 adopted by the Human Rights Council on 12th of April 2011 entitled “Human Rights and the environment” requested the Office of the High Commissioner “in consultation with and taking into account the views of States Members of the United Nations, relevant international organizations and intergovernmental bodies, including the United Nations Environment Programme and relevant multilateral environmental agreements, special procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders, to conduct, within existing resources, a detailed analytical study on the relationship between human rights and the environment” (para.1).
See also the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes
Human rights and climate change
In its 5th Assessment Report (2014), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) unequivocally confirmed that climate change is real and that human-made greenhouse gas emissions are its primary cause. The report identified the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters, rising sea-levels, floods, heat waves, droughts, desertification, water shortages, and the spread of tropical and vector-borne diseases as some of the adverse impacts of climate change. These phenomena directly and indirectly threaten the full and effective enjoyment of a range of human rights by people throughout the world, including the rights to life, water and sanitation, food, health, housing, self-determination, culture and development.