Business giants pressured by Dutch activists to strengthen climate targets

Preliminary reports suggest that a climate resolution was rejected

Milieudefensie, the Dutch part of the Friends of the Earth environmental group, has sent letters to the heads of 30 major companies, demanding that they publish climate action plans that outline how they’ll contribute to global efforts to deliver the 1.5C pathway of the Paris Agreement.

Having won a landmark legal case against Shell to raise its decarbonisation efforts, the group is now targeting 29 other businesses, calling on them to publish ambitious climate action plans.

The firms are: ABN AMRO, ABP, Aegon, Ahold Delhaize, AkzoNobel, Atradius, BAM Group, Boskalis Westminster, BP, Dow, DSM, ExxonMobil, FrieslandCampina, ING, KLM, LyondellBasell, NN Group, PfZW, Rabobank, RWE, Schiphol, Stellantis, Tata Steel, Unilever, Uniper, Vion, Vitol, Vopak and Yara.

Shell has also been targeted by Milieudefensie’s Climate Case, despite not being sent a letter. Businesses have until April 15 to respond via the issuance of a plan.

The letter claims that emissions from these businesses “are literally making the world sick and that has to stop”, with Milieudefensie’s director Donald Pols claiming that major polluters have to “go green quickly”.

“Large companies have known that they need to change since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015,” the group stated. “But they still cause dangerous climate change. They literally make the world sick. A healthy company does not only think about profit, but passes on a healthy earth to the next generations.

“That is why we now require all these companies to come up with their own climate plan before April 15 to combat dangerous climate change. The years of lingering are over.” 

Spotlight on Shell

Last year, Shell confirmed plans to appeal a court ruling ordering it to set stronger targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That ruling was announced in late May after a case at the Hague District Court, filed by activist groups including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, who had collectively garnered the support of more than 1,700 members of the general public.

The court ruled that Shell’s current ambition to reduce the carbon intensity of products by 20% by 2030 is not aligned with the UK or EU’s net-zero goal for 2050, as it could technically see Shell pushing for growth. Shell has maintained that its intention is to deliver net-zero by 2050 and that its plans for getting there are credible.

Shell has also faced issues with the Netherlands’ advertising watchdog, which urged Royal Dutch Shell to stop running a campaign promoting fuel purchases as ‘carbon neutral’, providing that customers purchase offsets.

The campaign in question promotes a Shell offer whereby those buying petrol and diesel can choose to pay an extra fee that will fund carbon offsetting. Shell uses carbon credits that support nature-based projects including tree planting.

A group of nine law students from the Free University in Amsterdam made a complaint to the Netherlands’ Advertising Code Committee (Stichting Reclame Code), accusing Shell of greenwashing using the campaign, which is called ‘Drive CO2 Neutral’.

Matt Mace

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