Laura Burgers, ‘An Apology Leading to Dystopia: Or, Why Fuelling Climate Change Is Tortious’

This invited response commentary engages with Benoit Mayer’s case comment, published in this issue of Transnational Environmental Law, on the recent landmark decision by the District Court of The Hague (The Netherlands) of May 2021 in Milieudefensie v Royal Dutch Shell. The Court ordered the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell to reduce at least 45% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with 2019 levels. In this response commentary I build on and contrast Mayer’s examination of how the Court arrived at this target. In doing so, I discuss the normativity of tort law compared with international law against the background of the ideas of Martti Koskenniemi. I conclude that the District Court legitimately qualified Shell’s business plans as tortious. The specific reduction target is the result of civil procedural rules on evidence and the debate between the parties. In the light of this analysis, I respectfully reject Benoit Mayer’s suggestion that sectoral practices should play a more significant role in determining corporate climate mitigation obligations. In my view, such an approach would be dangerously apologetic and lead to dystopian outcomes.

Laura Burgers, An Apology Leading to Dystopia: Or, Why Fuelling Climate Change Is Tortious, Transnational Environmental Law,

Also: Benoit Mayer, Judicial Interpretation of Tort Law in Milieudefensie v Shell: A Rejoinder, Transnational Environmental Law,

Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 June 2022.

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