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paris agreement

A truck carrying Shell gasoline.

In a historic legal maneuver, ClientEarth is personally suing 11 of Shell’s board of directors for failing to bring its business policies in line with the Paris Agreement. The suit is the first time that a corporate board of directors has been sued due to a lack of climate action.

The Paris Agreement is a landmark 2015 international treaty to reduce global warming below 2° and, preferably, 1.5° Celcius.

ClientEarth is a Shell shareholder, giving it the right to bring a suit against the company for failure to manage the risk posed by climate change under the UK Companies Act.

“Shell’s Board is legally required to manage risks to the company that could harm its future success, and the climate crisis presents the biggest risk of them all,” ClientEarth said in a statement.


“Ensuring the company stays competitive in the energy markets of the future, as countries and customers worldwide choose cheaper, cleaner energy, means,” the statement continues. “Shell needs to move away from fossil fuels towards an alternative business model.”

The lawsuit is supported by Nest, the UK’s largest workplace pension scheme with over 10 million members. “Investors want to see action in line with the risk climate change presents and will challenge those who aren’t doing enough to transition their business,” said Mark Fawcett, Nest’s chief investment officer. “We hope the whole energy industry sits up and takes notice.”

The lawsuit has the backing of a group of investors that hold over 12 million shares in the company.

Shell believes it’s acting according to the Paris Agreement because its goal is to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050. The company says it supports the “most ambitious goal” of the Paris Agreement, limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5° Celsius.

ClientEarth says Shell should be more aggressive in moving away from fossil fuels towards an alternative business model. It also believes that the company's current efforts are inadequate and will lead to diminishing profits.

“[Shell] fails to deliver the reduction in emissions that is needed to keep global climate goals within reach and continues with fossil fuel production for decades to come,” ClientEarth said in a statement. “This will tie the company to projects and investments that are likely to become unprofitable as the world cleans up its energy systems.”

In 2022, Shell reported its largest annual profit of nearly $40 billion, fuelled by rising energy costs due to the war in Ukraine.

“We do not accept ClientEarth’s allegations,” a Shell spokesperson said. “Our directors have complied with their legal duties and have, at all times, acted in the best interests of the company.”

While efforts to push companies to do more to solve the climate crisis tend to come from the outside, ClientEarth’s approach to sue as a shareholder is a unique way to pressure Shell to change. It also makes a lot of sense. Whether you’re a citizen of the Earth or a multinational corporation—we need to do something about climate change before it becomes impossible to do business altogether.

Over the weekend, signals that President Donald Trump intends to abandon the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change began blaring.  

Photo by Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images.

A group of 22 Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell along with White House aide Steve Bannon, White House counsel Don McGahn, and EPA chief Scott Pruitt, have reportedly urged Trump to exit the agreement, which requires signatory nations to take whatever steps they deem necessary to limit worldwide temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.


While Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that he would make a final decision in the coming days, several people close to Trump have said that he is "[planning] to leave" the deal, according to an Axios report.

The reports appear to have unnerved even some Republicans, specifically those whose districts stand to take on a fair amount of water should the agreement fall apart and sea levels continue to rise — which could occur at a terrifyingly rapid rate without a serious global effort to curb carbon emissions.

On Tuesday, Florida GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan tweeted a picture of his coastal district, along with a message for the president.

Buchanan's district includes the city of Sarasota and a group of barrier islands, all of which are threatened by rising sea levels.

A 2013 study found that if the rise in carbon emissions continues at the current rate, parts of Florida's 16th congressional district could see half or more of its population displaced by 2100.

Buchanan is not the only Republican asking Trump to reconsider withdrawing from the agreement either.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, who represents South Carolina, home to a number of coastal cities and low-lying islands, added his voice to the chorus on Sunday, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that leaving the agreement would be "bad for the [GOP], bad for the country."

It might be relatively easy to ignore the problem of rising sea levels from landlocked states like Kansas or Montana or Tennessee.

Or from Air Force One, for that matter.

But it's not so easy when, like Buchanan, Graham, and others, you wake up staring at the potential consequences each morning.

It's been a good run. Photo by Roger W/Flickr.

Buchanan's record on climate change is certainly mixed — at best. Last year, the congressman earned a 29% rating from the League of Conservation Voters and just a 21% rating overall. But even if he's late to the party, voices like his are unfortunately rare enough to be essential.

The more pro-climate GOP voices join the debate, the easier it will be for more Republicans from coastal areas who want their beautiful views to continue on undisturbed to face reality and stand up against climate change.

It's in everyone's best interest. Reality, after all, has a way of biting back before too long.

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The Wilderness Society

For the first time in history, representatives of 195 nations agreed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Rejoice! Hooray! The world is saved!


GIF from "Captain Planet," obvi.

Well. Sort of. Ish. For now.

The so-called "Paris Agreement" was signed into effect Saturday evening, Dec. 12, 2015, after two weeks of grueling negotiations(and technically one day after what was supposed to have been the end of the Conference of the Parties, but that's OK).

It is a landmark step in slowing the effects of climate change across the globe. The mere fact that 195 nations actually came together and agreed on something is a pretty remarkable feat in itself, especially considering that the last 20 times the United Nations tried to get together to address global warming, all ended in resounding shrugs.

GIF via MTV News/Kanye.

While the historical importance of this cooperation is certainly worth celebrating, it's also an easy distraction from the more ... lackluster aspects of the climate deal.

Imagine those 195 nations involved in the agreement are 195 friends who all went out for dinner one night.

Now imagine the nightmare of trying to split the bill 195 ways. The Democratic Republic of the Congo doesn't want to go in on the $300 bottle of wine that the United States bought for the table. And the Marshall Islands had two more pieces of calamari than Brazil did, so Brazil wants them to pay the difference. Then, of course, there's Monaco, who only got a salad and yes OK paid for exactly what they ate plus a stingy tip, but they didn't factor in the tax and everyone else wants them to split the cost of the appetizers, too. And we haven't even gotten started on entrees yet!

Let's just say there was a lot of compromise involved. But hey, at least everyone had a good time, right?

Actual footage from the signing of the agreement. GIF via New York Times.

For example, there was a whole lotta hemming and hawing about the difference between a 1.5° and 2°C global temperature increase.

We know the overall climate is warming and we need to stop it before it gets worse. But there's some disagreement on what "worse" means, exactly.

The general consensus has been that 2 degrees Celsius is the cutoff for rising global temperatures by the end of the century. Any hotter than that, and it gets increasingly difficult to predict just how unpredictable the ecological damage could be. Also, 2 degrees seemed like a pretty attainable goal for most countries.

There are others, however, who were pushing to cap the rise at 1.5 degrees. And while that half-degree might seem like splitting hairs, there are some parts of the world where it could be the difference between life and death.

GIF from "Anchorman."

The result of all this back-and-forth? The global temperature increase will be capped at ... um ... well, we're gonna cap the global temperature increase.

Basically, every country gets to set its own limits for greenhouse gas emissions. These limits will be publicly available through the UN website so all nations can be held to proper public scrutiny.

Unfortunately, there's not really any requirement for these emission reductions other than "less than what we're doing now." Amid the fancy legalese of the formal agreement, it actually says: "Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible" (emphasis mine).

That's remarkably vague and noncommittal, especially for a legally binding contract. But the parties will reconvene every five years to review their progress and maybe-possibly increase those limits. So that's something?

The upside of the Paris Agreement: Everyone agrees that we need to take climate action.

Even if specific action is still left to the discretion of each nation, this is a big move in the right direction.

While the issue of global warming is hardly "solved" and we're not any closer to saving the planet once and for all (if such a thing is even possible), at least we acknowledge there's a problem, and we're committing to fix it.

Yes, there are some changes that will happen in your country and some things that might be integrated into your day-to-day lives. But you might not even notice them, and they might not be enough to make a difference.

That might seem like cold comfort. But it all depends on what we do from here on out.

So let's pledge as individuals to embrace climate-conscious lives whenever possible.

Vote with your dollars and go green when you can. You don't have to buy solar panels for your home — just pay attention to what you recycle. Walk, bike, or carpool when you can (and maybe next time you buy a car, aim for electric). Be aware of the world as you move through it, and consider the impact that actions might have on the future of our planet. And whenever there's an option that involves less fossil fuels, I implore you to take it.

That might be as vague and noncommittal as the Paris Agreement. But everything has to start somewhere.

Let's get started.