On 26 May 2018 a Dutch court ruled that by 2030 Shell must cut its carbon emissions from oil and gas by 45% relative to 2019 levels. The Guardian said that the judge accepted the argument that Shell had failed in its duty to respect human rights by failing to adequately curb its role in global heating. Shell’s goals to mitigate its climate impact, the court found, “largely amount to rather intangible, undefined and non-binding plans for the long term”.
On the same day a small group of hedge fund activists won places on the board of ExxonMobil with the intention of pushing the company towards a greener future. The Washington Post called it ratification of shareholders’ unhappiness with the way the company had been addressing climate change and its lagging financial performance.
And still on the same day, Follow This reported that 61% of shareholders in Chevron voted for their proposal to encourage the US oil company to reduce all of its emissions. Further they said that earlier in May, 58% of shareholders had voted for a similar Follow This resolution at ConocoPhillips and 80% at Phillips66.
Climate action against corporations is a trend
In a paper published in February by SSRN, Annalisa Savaresi and Joana Setzer take stock of recent developments in climate litigation. They map pro and anti climate cases that rely in whole or in part on human rights arguments, using categories deployed in the literature on climate and on environmental rights litigation. They point out that pursuing corporate actors on the basis of human rights law over climate has become a trend, with a dozen more cases pending worldwide.