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Campaigners call for ‘climate damages tax’ as they launch legal action against Shell

‘Forcing companies like Shell to change their ways must be part of the transition to a low-carbon global economy’

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Friday 05 April 2019 17:22 BST
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Seven environmental and human rights organisations are launching legal action against Shell for what they see as the company’s inadequate efforts to tackle climate change.

Friends of the Earth have been joined by Greenpeace and ActionAid, as well as 17,000 people who have signed up as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The groups are calling for the oil giant to align its business with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Their court summons will be submitted to the company’s headquarters in The Hague, demanding that the company sets out plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

The green groups point to analysis by the Carbon Disclosure Project that shows Shell is one of the 100 fossil fuel producers responsible for 71 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

“Inaction on climate change from governments and businesses, is increasingly seeing citizens use the courts to call time on the destructive excesses of the fossil fuel industry and to force investment in sustainable energy,” said Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s global lead on climate change.

“Forcing companies like Shell to change their ways must be part of the transition to a low-carbon global economy.”

To accompany the launch of legal proceedings, ActionAid has examined the financing mechanisms that could be used to raise the $300bn (£230bn) a year needed to repair the damage already being caused by climate change.

They point to the devastation recently caused in south east Africa by Cyclone Idai. Scientists have predicted that tropical storms will become more powerful and destructive in the future as climate change progresses.

Among the measures suggested by ActionAid was a “climate damages tax” applied to major oil, gas and coal companies.

“Our analysis shows that ending state subsidies for fossil fuels and introducing progressive taxes on fossil fuel companies, would provide the billions needed to adapt to and account for the harmful impacts of climate change,” said Mr Singh.

Responding to news of the lawsuit, a Shell spokesperson said: “We agree that action is needed now on climate change, so we fully support the Paris agreement and the need for society to transition to a lower-carbon future.

“We’re committed to playing our part, by addressing our own emissions and helping customers to reduce theirs.”

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They pointed to the company’s New Energies business, which they said had already invested billions of dollars in a range of low-carbon technologies, including biofuels, hydrogen and wind power, and electric vehicles.

“Addressing a challenge as big as climate change requires a truly collaborative, society-wide approach. We believe that smart policy from government, supported by inclusive action from businesses like ours and from civil society, is the best way to reach solutions and drive progress,” they said.

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