The historic judgement marks the first time a fossil fuel company has been held accountable for its contribution to climate change and ordered to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout its whole supply chain.
The landmark ruling came in a case heard in the Hague, brought against Royal Dutch Shell by seven campaign groups, including Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) and Greenpeace Netherlands, on behalf of 17,000 Dutch citizens.
The verdict means Shell will now have to radically alter its operations and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent in 2030, in line with the international target of limiting global warming to 1.5C set out in the Paris Agreement.
The case is the first in which activists have taken a major energy firm to court to compel it to overhaul its climate strategy.
Shell is one of the world’s top ten biggest industrial climate polluters, responsible for around 2.36 per cent of emissions.
The judgement means it will need to implement much tougher emissions reduction efforts than planned.
Shell’s current goal is to lower emissions by 20 per cent by 2030.
Environmental campaigners have welcomed the outcome of the court case, which has been described as a “historic victory” for people and the earth.
Andy Palmen, interim director of Greenpeace Netherlands, said: ”This verdict is a historic victory for the climate and everyone facing the consequences of the climate crisis.
“Shell cannot continue to violate human rights and put profit over people and the planet.
“This verdict is a clear signal to the fossil fuel industry.
“Coal, oil and gas need to stay in the ground.
“People around the world are demanding climate justice.
“Today the court confirmed that the fossil fuel industry cannot continue their climate pollution.
“We can hold multinational corporations worldwide accountable for the climate crisis.”
Shell is expected to launch an appeal against what a spokesperson for the firm described as a “disappointing court decision”.
The spokesperson added: “We are investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy, including electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, renewables and biofuels.
“We want to grow demand for these products and scale up our new energy businesses even more quickly.”
In the UK, industry has committed to working in line with the Paris Agreement and recently passed the North Sea Transition Deal, which includes a pledge to cut production emissions by 15 million tonnes by 2030 – the equivalent of 22 per cent of annual emissions from UK homes.
Deirdre Michie, chief executive of industry representative body Oil & Gas UK, said: “The UK offshore oil and gas industry was the first sector to commit to the government’s target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.
“Companies are already reducing greenhouse gases through the landmark North Sea Transition Deal, developing greener technologies to cut our emissions and helping other industries to do the same.”