Energy giants are facing societies that have grown increasingly concerned about climate change and want corporates to step up their efforts to reduce emissions through cleaner and renewable forms of energy. Although these have been longstanding calls, courtroom and boardroom challenges by environmental activists are forcing global companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron to factor climate change more decisively into their commercial decisions. Companies have not been inactive, but they need to do more to stay in tune with international public sentiment that favours greener and cleaner energy.
This is clear after a Dutch court told oil giant Shell this week to slash its greenhouse gas emission targets, the first time in history that the judiciary there has ordered a company to emit less carbon dioxide. The Anglo-Dutch multinational’s argument was that there was no legal basis for the case and that governments are responsible for meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris climate accords. Those accords commit all nations to cut carbon emissions in order to limit warming to 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels and encourage them to go down to 1.5 deg C. The landmark Dutch ruling now brings companies within the ambit of tangible global efforts to fight climate change, not leaving that task to governments alone. The ruling may have a bearing in the United States, where about 1,375 lawsuits seeking relief from climate change have been filed, compared with about 425 in other countries.