May 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

What's next after this week's escalation of climate pressure on Big Oil

Oil pumpjacks operating in Long Beach, California, in April 2020.

Oil pumpjacks operating in Long Beach, California, in April 2020. Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

The dust is still settling after Wednesday brought new legal and investor pressure on some of the world's biggest oil companies to get more aggressive on climate.

What we're watching: Via Bloomberg, the group that won a major Netherlands court ruling against Royal Dutch Shell is now laying the groundwork for cases against more fossil fuel companies.

What they're saying: "We are already supporting other organizations to set up similar cases in their countries," Friends of the Earth Netherlands director Donald Pols tells Bloomberg.

Catch up fast: A Dutch district court in The Hague ordered Shell to cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to 2019 levels. Shell is defending its current plans and says it will appeal.

How it works: A new Reuters piece notes that the court ruled Shell "violated its duty of care under Dutch law because its policies and emissions contributed to dangerous climate change."

  • "Michael Burger, a litigation specialist who represents local U.S. governments in climate cases including against Shell, said while Wednesday’s decision was based on Dutch law, the concept of a duty to care exists in legal systems in Europe and around the globe," it reports.

Turning to ExxonMobil, the Financial Times reports: "The activist investors who invoked the perils of climate change to win a stunning proxy battle against ExxonMobil this week said the supermajor would need to cut oil production, indicating they would keep pressing management to shift strategy in response to the shareholder vote."

The intrigue: The piece explores how the hedge fund Engine No. 1, which successfully won support for at least two new board members, views the landscape.

  • Engine No. 1 founder Chris James tells the FT they're a "capitalist group, definitely not a non-profit" and that "Our idea was that this was going to have a positive impact on the share price."

Go deeper: A day's worth of climate news brings earthquake for Big Oil

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