The oil giants that have helped drive the climate crisis are finally being forced to take responsibility for their actions
On a rainy afternoon in The Hague, the district court delivered a judgment against Royal Dutch Shell, the parent company of the Shell group. It refuted the excuses regularly relied on to continue extracting oil and gas and vindicated longstanding calls to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The court held that Shell’s current policy of merely reducing the “carbon intensity” of its products by 20% by 2030, and aiming to reach net zero by 2050, would contribute to climate impacts that endanger the human rights of the plaintiffs.
The extraordinary events preceding the oil industry’s so-called Black Wednesday bring to mind the proverbial path to bankruptcy: it happens gradually, and then all at once. Hot on the heels of a landmark report by the global energy body the International Energy Agency warning against new fossil fuel production, Wednesday’s historic ruling has blown another hole in the defences of an industry that has overwhelmingly failed to accept responsibility for driving the climate emergency.