18 May 2021 The Hague, Today neighbors of the Royal Dutch Shell headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands, received the news that the office building will be demolished to make room for an International Tribunal for Climate Justice. Looking out of their windows, residents can see about fifty construction workers with a wrecking ball. Banners on construction fences show the design of the Tribunal building accompanied by texts like “Crimes against the earth will soon be brought to court here” and “Here we will accommodate a museum for climate justice”.
Contractor company Beton B.V. seems to be preparing for the demolition of Shell’s headquarters. But it soon becomes clear that the construction workers are actually climate activists of the collective Shell Must Fall. Inside the HQ building the Shell board is currently discussing their future with shareholders during their Annual General Meeting. Sanne, today acting as a construction worker from Beton BV, asserts: “I believe it is time to arrest the climate criminals that are inside this building. We all know Shell will never be a fair and ecological company. And after the trail of pollution and tears those big shots in suits brought upon communities impacted by fossil fuel extraction, I am excited to build an International Tribunal for Climate Justice”.
The members of the Shell Must Fall collective emphasize that “making Shell fall” is essential for a sustainable and just energy transition. The demolition of the Shell headquarter and the building of an International Tribunal for Climate Justice are merely theater today, but they are symbolic for the climate fighters’ demands. Namely the dismantling of Shell, a just transition for Shell workers to green jobs, reparations for impacted communities and ecosystems, and the democratization of energy production. Spokesperson Hanneke van Houten explains: ‘We want people to realize that a future without Shell is possible. Today, we’re showing what it could look like.’
At today’s annual meeting, shareholders are voting on Shell’s proposed energy transition strategy. The Shell board has chosen to promote this strategy instead of the much more ambitious resolutions proposed by green shareholder group Follow This. Shell’s own energy transition strategy has been criticized among others for being unambitious, not phasing out fossil fuel sales for another 14 years and heavily relying on scientifically uncertain carbon offsetting techniques. Van Houten: ‘This shows once again that Shell will always put their profits before justice and planet.’
Today’s action is not the first time the British-Dutch multinational is called out for criminal behavior. Currently there are numerous court cases running against Shell. Examples include the climate lawsuit led by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, backed by 17,000 Dutch citizens. And earlier this year, the UK Supreme Court gave the green light to Nigerian communities to sue Shell in British court for damages due to oil spillages.
Shell Must Fall is working in solidarity with impacted communities in the Niger Delta. Friday Barilule Nbani from the Lekeh Foundation in the Niger Delta calls on the international community: “We can not be allowing the people who are adversely affected by Shell to [remain] groaning in pain. Ogoni people can still ‘not breathe’. We call on the international Community for solidarity.”
Photo credit: Annelien Nijland