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A Royal Dutch Shell Plc logo on a fence at the Shell Pernis refinery in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Shell reports first quarter earnings on April 29. (Peter Boer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In a precedent-setting ruling, a Dutch court ruled Wednesday in favor of environmentalists and more than 17,000 residents of the Netherlands, by ordering Royal Dutch Shell to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Why it matters: It’s the first court ruling that orders a major oil company to make its emissions plans more consistent with Paris Climate Agreement targets, and it could spur legal action against other oil and gas firms.

Driving the news: The case was brought in April 2019 by Dutch citizens who alleged that Shell's continued oil and gas exploration threatens their human rights by robbing them of a more stable climate. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth also participated in the lawsuit.

Details: The Dutch district court in the Hague ordered Shell to cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to 2019 levels. The court ruled that the energy company's existing emissions reduction plans, calling for a reduction of emissions intensity of 20% by 2030, were insufficient, and could result in human rights violations.

  • The ruling includes so-called Scope 3 emissions, which are the greenhouse gases released when Shell's oil and gas is burned for generating energy.
  • While many court cases have been brought in the U.S. and elsewhere against governments for not acting to rein in planet-warming greenhouse gases, the Shell ruling is part of a wave of challenges from climate activists that target oil and gas companies.
  • Shell "fully intends to appeal the ruling," the company stated.

Between the lines: Shell has established a more aggressive emissions reduction strategy than many other major oil and gas companies, with the goal of reaching net zero "absolute emissions" in 2050.

What they're saying: "This is a monumental victory for our planet, for our children, and is a stop towards a livable future for everyone," said Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, in a statement.

  • “Urgent action is needed on climate change which is why we have accelerated our efforts to become a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050, in step with society, with short-term targets to track our progress," Shell said in a statement.
  • We are investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy, including electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, renewables and biofuels. We want to grow demand for these products and scale up our new energy businesses even more quickly. We will continue to focus on these efforts and fully expect to appeal today’s disappointing court decision,” the company stated.

Go deeper: Shell CEO: You need us on climate change

Go deeper

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Global fossil fuel decline won't be fast enough to meet Paris climate goals

Image via DNV Energy Transition Outlook

A multidecade energy outlook from the consultancy DNV finds that COVID has not been a turning point on climate.

Why it matters: "[F]rom an energy transition perspective, the pandemic has been a lost opportunity," they write.

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How work patterns created during pandemic will affect future energy use

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A new report explores how emerging work patterns created under the pandemic's strain may create important long-term shifts in energy use, but not in ways that significantly change emissions.

Driving the news: The latest multidecade energy outlook from the consultancy DNV provides a look at some new normals around remote labor and virtual services.

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Where it stands: Ida's energy aftermath

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The restoration of Gulf Coast power services and petroleum facilities won't be quick, easy or clean.

Driving the news: Almost 988,000 homes and businesses are without power in Louisiana, per tracking service PowerOutage.US — a slight improvement from the storm's immediate aftermath.