View of the Royal Dutch Shell logo on a gas station.

The task of preserving the planet and limiting the global increase in temperature concerns not only governments, but also companies and other economic actors, including individual citizens. A Dutch court, in an unprecedented decision, has been commissioned to recall this, sentencing the oil company Royal Dutch Shell to reduce its emissions by at least 45% in 2030 (compared to 2019 levels). The company had previously pledged to reduce its emissions until reaching climate neutrality in 2050, in a path that the court has deemed insufficient.

The International Energy Agency, in a recent report, has described in all its starkness the difficulties of the fight against climate change: even if all countries meet the decarbonisation targets to which they have committed, global emissions from the The energy sector and industrial processes will only be reduced from the current 33 gigatons of CO2 to around 22 in 2050, far from climate neutrality and therefore well above the risk thresholds indicated by the scientific consensus.

Shell’s ruling is based on the global dimension of climate change and the very universal nature of human rights. It is positive that the courts, within the necessary legal certainty, act as a forward to demand a higher level of climate ambition from those companies and agents that are furthest behind. One of the criteria for interpreting the rules is the social reality of the time in which they are applied. However, the most audacious judicial pronouncements show, on many occasions, the insufficiencies of the existing norms, whose corsets do not adapt quickly enough to the speed required by international commitments.

The Spanish climate change law, approved just a few days ago, although ambitious in many aspects, has missed an opportunity to address one of the fundamental levers of the energy transition: the corporate responsibility of companies and their obligations in terms of called ESG criteria, which, by its acronym in English, cover the environmental, social and corporate governance factor. Companies have a social responsibility that goes beyond the mere maximization of shareholder value. It is up to regulators to establish institutional mechanisms that allow other stakeholders, beyond managers, to promote the adoption of sufficiently ambitious climate commitments by companies. The long and complex path towards climate neutrality necessarily passes through the determined cooperation of all economic agents.

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