Categories
2021 Business responsibility Domestic court Emissions reductions The Netherlands

Milieudefensie and others v. Royal Dutch Shell PLC

Summary:

This case was brought as a class action tort suit by a group of NGOs, as well as more than 17,000 individuals represented by Milieudefensie. The applicants claimed that Royal Dutch Shell had an obligation to reduce its carbon emissions relative to 2019 levels by 2030 across its entire energy portfolio. It represents a groundbreaking advance in the context of business responsibility for human rights impacts.

Date:

26 May 2021

Facts:

The court extensively discussed the science on climate change and its impacts, reductions targets, and the existing international instruments at length. It reiterated the reduction goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

Admissibility:

The court described the case as a public interest action. These are allowed under Dutch law, and the court noted that the common interest of preventing dangerous climate change by reducing CO2 emissions can be protected in a class action. It discussed at length whether the cases shared a ‘similar interest’, which is a requirement under the Dutch Civil Code. This requirement entails that the interests in question must be suitable for bundling into a class action so as to safeguard an the legal protection of the stakeholders.

In determining whether the individual applicants had locus standi, the court held that they had no separate interest beyond that represented by Milieudefensie before the court, and wrote off the individual claims.

Merits:

Relying on domestic law, human rights law, and soft law instruments, the domestic court interpreted the unwritten standard of care contained in Dutch domestic tort law.

Book 6, Section 162 of the Dutch Civil Code proscribes acts that conflict with what is generally accepted according to unwritten law. The court held that this standard of care also applies to Royal Dutch Shell. Applying this standard, the court held that Shell was obliged to reduce its CO2 emissions by net 45% at end 2030, relative to 2019. This reduction obligation relates to Shell’s entire energy portfolio and all of its aggregate emissions. This is an obligation of result for the activities of the Shell group itself, and a best-efforts obligation with respect to its business relations and end-users. Because Shell has the ability to influence these relations, it is expected to use its influence to bring about emissions reductions.

Remedies:

The judgment is subject to appeal, but the court rendered it provisionally enforceable, despite noting the possibility of irreversible negative consequences for Shell.

Separate opinions:

None

Measures taken as a result of the judgment:

Pending

Status of case:

Decided, appeal pending

Suggested case citation:

The Hague District Court, Milieudefensie and Others v. Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Others, case number C/09/571932, Judgment of 26 May 2021.

Links:

For the full judgment, see here.

For a summary in English, see here.

Categories
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Children and young people Croatia Cyprus Czechia Denmark Emissions reductions Estonia European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Non-discrimination Norway Paris Agreement Poland Portugal Private and family life Prohibition of torture Right to life Romania Russian Federation Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland The Netherlands The United Kingdom Turkey Ukraine

Duarte Agostinho et al. v. Austria et al.

Summary:
This case was brought by a group of young people who are part of Youth for Climate Justice against 33 Council of Europe Member States. The applicant young people claim that their right to life is threatened by the effects of climate change in Portugal (e.g. forest fires). Moreover they claim that their right to privacy includes their physical and mental wellbeing, which is threatened by heatwaves that force them to spend more time indoors; and that as young people, they stand to experience the worst effects of climate change.

This is the first climate application brought before the European Court of Human Rights, and it was brought with the support of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). The issues raised here are novel in the Strasbourg context. In addition, in communicating the case, the Court also proprio motu raised an issue under Article 3 ECHR, the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

Admissibility:
Pending

Merits:
Pending

Remedies:
Pending

Separate opinions:
Pending

Implementation measures taken:
N/A

Date:
Pending

Type of Forum:
Regional

Status of case:
Communicated by the Court on 30 November 2020

Suggested case citation:
ECtHR, Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Other Member States, no. 39371/20, Communicated Case, 30 November 2020

Links:
https://youth4climatejustice.org/

The applicants in the case have set up two websites to share documents related to the case.

       – To see all of the third party interventions filed in the case to date (eight in total), click here.

       – To read the state observations of the 33 respondent states in this case, click here

Categories
Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights Paris Agreement Private and family life Right to life The Netherlands

Urgenda Foundation v. the Netherlands

Summary:
This case, brought in 2013 by the Urgenda foundation and hundreds of Dutch citizens against the Netherlands, has become the leading climate and human rights judgment, and served as inspiration for similar litigation around the world. The final judgment in this case was issued in 2019, and in this case the domestic courts not only found that the Dutch climate policy had violated Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the rights to life and respect for private and family life, respectively), but also issued an injunction requiring greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Remedies ordered:
District Court of The Hague had previously ruled that the government was obligated to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 in comparison to 1990 levels. The District Court’s decision was appealed by the State. The Court of Appeal upheld the District Court’s decision on 9 October 2018. After the State’s appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme court ruled in favour of Urgenda and held that the government has a legal duty to prevent dangerous climate change.

Date of final domestic judgment:
20 December 2019

More on this case:
For the final judgment in Dutch, click here.

For the summary provided by the Supreme Court (English), click here.

Recommended reading:
Ingrid Leijten, ‘Human Rights v. Insufficient Climate Action: The Urgenda Case’ 37(2) Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights (2019)

Benoit Mayer, ‘The State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation: Ruling of the Court of Appeal of The Hague (9 October 2018)’ 8(1) Transnational Environmental Law (2019), 167-192.

Maiko Meguro, ‘State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation’ 114(4) American Journal of International Law (2020), 729-735.

Suggested citation:
Dutch Supreme Court (Hoge Raad), Urgenda Foundation v. the Netherlands, Judgment of 20 December 2019, No. 19/00135, ECLI:NL:HR:2019:2006.