It’s been a bad week to be in fossil fuels. Oil giant Shell was ordered by a Dutch court to slash its emissions by 45% from 2019 levels by 2030. This is a landmark judgement, paving the way for similar action against oil companies in the future. This was not the only good news for the climate, though. What else happened this week that could threaten the future of Big Oil?
What is Happening?
- The Shell judgement was particularly remarkable. Roger Cox, the lawyer for Friends of the Earth Netherlands, who brought the case along with 17 000 other plaintiffs, told the Guardian “it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting corporation to comply with the Paris climate agreement.” Additionally, the judge held that society’s interest in emission reductions took priority over the commercial harm that Shell would suffer as a result.
- On May 26, ExxonMobil’s shareholders voted to change the supermjaor’s board. A majority of shareholders selected at least two of the four directors dominated by Engine No 1, a hedge fund that has said that oil and gas group’s focus on fossil fuels has put it at “existential risk.”
- On May 26, Chevron Corp shareholders voted in favour of a proposal to cut emissions generated by the company’s products. Shareholders voted 61% in favour of the proposal to cut “Scope 3 emissions” brought forward at its annual general meetings. Although the proposal does not require Chevron to set a target of how much it needs to cut emissions or by when, the overwhelming support for it shows that investors are starting to grow frustrated at companies not doing enough to tackle climate change.
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Clark Williams Derry, an oil analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, says, “This really is the start of a new era for Big Oil. You can’t shrug this off as having a bad day. This is all three largest supermajors taking it on the chin from shareholders or the courts.”
Overall, these events have shown that the days of Big Oil polluting the environment at will are coming to an end. The court judgement at Shell will certainly usher in similar court cases around the world and hopefully, oil and gas companies will realise that it is not enough to be profitable anymore; they need to take ownership of their role in accelerating climate change and work to prevent further damage to the environment.
Featured image by: Flickr