It’s not often that one of the world’s richest companies doesn't get what it wants. But today in a Dutch court, Shell not only failed to win the sweeping injunction it applied for, but was told in quite forceful terms that it must accept the consequences of its reckless plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. Here’s what the judge said:
"A company like Shell, that is taking actions... that are controversial in society and which many people will object to, can and should expect that actions will be taken to try to change its mind."
Two weeks ago, Shell took Greenpeace Netherlands and Greenpeace International to court, asking for an incredibly broad injunction against Greenpeace. What Shell initially asked for would have meant that any Greenpeace "action" - illegal or legal - within 500m of Shell property could have led to a million euro fine for the organization. Yep - a friendly activist handing out leaflets about Arctic drilling on a street corner could have broken the terms of the injunction.
The judge told them to change this request, and they came back with a new injunction that sought to block any kind of protest on Shell's actual property - even it was entirely legal.
Today, we received the court's ruling. The judge confirmed that direct actions were both proportionate and justified, given our earlier efforts to change Shell's mind in other ways. He also ruled that actions can continue in future, within certain limits. All that Shell got out of this is a narrow ruling, which left two offices – Greenpeace Netherlands and Greenpeace International – facing penalties if they interrupt the normal running of petrol stations, offices or other Shell properties in the Netherlands for longer than two hours.
Shell said that it doesn't appreciate the activists’ methods, and regrets in particular that they don’t use "legitimate" ways to protest Arctic drilling.
Think for a minute about what could be legitimate ways of protest – at least according to Shell. Maybe citizens around the world could get together and petition governments to protect the Arctic and develop alternative solutions to fossil fuels for our transportations systems? How many signatures would such a petition need to be good enough for Shell? Could 2 million do the trick? Well, we did that.
A legitimate way to protest could be to question the validity of the drilling permits. Or to look closer at their inadequate oil spill plans and to contest their approval in court. Surely, Shell would encourage such "legitimate" ways of disagreeing with them, right?
Actually, Shell is currently suing Greenpeace US and 12 other US environmental and Indigenous groups to preempt challenges to those spill plans. This means that they’re asking for a court order in the US to prevent legal ways of contesting Arctic drilling.
Shell likes to play the victim, but the truth is, they are not willing to listen when Greenpeace, our supporters or a whole range of other environmental groups speak up about Arctic drilling. As you might have guessed, this narrow injunction will do nothing to prevent us from opposing Shell's reckless plans with creativity and passion.