Something big might possibly have happened, maybe. As climate breakdown kicks off and the sixth mass extinction continues, the genocidal capitalists behind it all might finally be getting what for.
Back in 2018 Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) joined with six partner organisations and 17,000 co-plaintiffs to kick fuck out of Shell, one of the planet’s top ten polluters, for putting cash ahead of actual planets. Specifically ours. They took their case to the courts, demanding Royal Dutch Shell be held responsible for knowingly wrecking the place, and forced to cut their emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement. Shell’s knowing contribution to climate breakdown was, they argued, a breach of articles 2 and 8 of the European convention on human rights: yer basic right to yer basic life, and yer actual right to yer actual family life.
Shell’s defence: “Nah, we good.”
Yesterday – yes, I am also shocked by the topicality of this post – Judge Larisa Alwin ruled against Shell, forcing them to cut their emissions by 45% within ten years. And she wasn’t kidding around, applying this to emissions from its own operations and also the shit it sells. She ruled: “The interest served with the reduction obligation outweighs the Shell group’s commercial interests.” By which she meant: The annihilation of millions of species and the near-destruction of an entire planet is slightly more important than Shell’s dirty cash-grab. That’s a big deal.
Donald Pols from Friends of the Earth Netherlands said, “This is a monumental victory for our planet, for our children and a big leap towards a liveable future for everyone. The judge left no room for doubt: Shell is causing dangerous climate change and must stop its destructive behaviour now.” I assume he said that while jumping in the air and clicking his heels. Maybe firing some guns into the sky. Possibly dipping a nurse for a quick kiss. We just don’t know.
This is the latest victory in the attempt to hold genocidal polluters legally responsible for their genocidal pollution. In February, a French court ruled against the government for failing to take sufficient action against climate breakdown. In April, a German court ruled its government must set clearer goals for reducing emissions by 2030. And about 20 minutes ago – again, the topicality of this post is entirely out of character – an Australian court ruled the environment minister has a duty of care to protect young people from climate breakdown.
Imagine if this was the start of something. Imagine if we made this a turning point. Imagine if other genocidal capitalists get dragged into court, held accountable for the irreversible damage they’re knowingly doing. If companies laying waste to the rainforests for lols were fined and stopped. If companies tearing up the seabeds were told to fuck off out of it. If governments subsidising fossil fuels were forced to stop and redirect to renewables. Imagine if this was the end of greenwashing, the end of useless handwringing, the end of heel-dragging piecemeal horseshit. This could be it! This could be what saves us!
Naturally, Shell plans to appeal.