The ruling in the climate case against Shell was called groundbreaking and historic yesterday. It was also immediately stated that the judgment could have major consequences for other large CO2 emitting companies. The French Total could be the next company to lose a climate case. “We are now translating the Dutch court‘s verdict into French for use in our lawsuit,” says Paul Mougeolle of the French environmental organisation Notre Affaire à Tous.
Following the Milieudefensie case against Royal Dutch Shell, Notre Affaire à Tous started a similar case against the French oil company. It is the first such a French climate case against an oil and gas company.
Environmental organisation Notre Affaire à Tous wants Total to recognise that there are dangers associated with the CO2 emissions of their products. As in the climate case against Shell, they demand that Total reduce their emissions and align them with what the UN Climate Panel IPCC believes is necessary to reduce global warming to one and a half degrees.
In the case of Shell, the judge ruled yesterday that the oil and gas company should have reduced emissions by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2019.
The French case has important similarities with the case against Shell. “The basis and the legal arguments are more or less the same,” says Mougeolle. The case against Total is based on new French legislation that states that companies have an obligation to prevent human rights violations and environmental damage.
The case was filed with Nanterre court in January 2020 but was delayed because Total argued that the court had no jurisdiction. This question has now been settled in favour of the environmental organisation. This seems to pave the way to actually start the business. “We hope for a verdict next year,” says Mougeolle.
The director of Milieudefensie said yesterday in Nieuwsuur that he wants to enter into a conversation with other large emitters with the ruling of the judge in his hand. “We prefer a company to take the necessary action itself. If they don’t, they can expect us to take action.”
When asked whether this could lead, for example, to legal action against the largest CO2 emitter in the Netherlands, steel producer Tata Steel, he said: “We are going to talk with them and what we are going to do is based on the outcome of that conversation.” Tata Steel tells us through a spokesman that Milieudefensie is welcome but that the steel company does not want to react in substance.
Nine de Pater of Milieudefensie, who was closely involved in the case against Shell: “We are not going to be on the doorstep with a subpoena within a few months. But with this verdict, we can say to companies that you also have a responsibility. We want to push them in the right direction.”