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June 29, 2021

Two landmark climate judgments

In two landmark decisions in recent days, a Dutch court has ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its global carbon emissions by 45% by the end of 2030, and the Federal Court of Australia has found that the environment minister, Sussan Ley, has a duty of care not to act in a way that would cause future harm to young people.

In the former judgment, the Court recognised the need for non-state action to meet Paris Agreement targets, telling the company that the level of emission reductions of Shell and its suppliers and buyers should be tangibly brought into line with those targets.  The case was brought by Friends of the Earth and over 17,000 co-plaintiffs.

In the Australian case, brought by eight teenagers and a nun acting as their litigation guardian, an injunction was sought to prevent Ley approving a proposed coalmine expansion.  Although the injunction was not granted, the recognition of a duty of care to younger people in respect of climate change creates an important common law precedent.