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27 February 2024

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Previous students of the Climate Law Clinic, after they filed a complaint against a misleading advertisement campaign by Shell in 2021.

Law students file complaint against gas company  

VU students from the Climate Change and Sustainability Law Clinic have filed a complaint against One-Dyas, a company that aims to drill gas in the North Sea. “One-Dyas is violating requirements of responsible business conduct.”  

According to VU teacher Clemens Kaupa, who is one of the clinic’s directors, One-Dyas has misinformed the public about the harms of their plans for extracting gas. “One aspect of our complaint is that the company failed to properly assess the full life cycle impact of the emissions related to the burning of the extracted gas. There is this weird situation where One-Dyas only calculates the emissions of their gas extraction platform – they make a big deal about that it runs on electricity – but they don’t talk at all about the emissions of the gas that they extract. Once the gas is extracted, it almost invariably will be burned, which results in major emissions of greenhouse gases. Their calculations should take these emissions into account as well.” 

Climate Law Clinic 

The Climate Change and Sustainability Law Clinic is fully dedicated to the promotion of climate justice via legal action. Students of the master track International Business Law: Climate Change and Corporations can join the clinic to work pro bono, often together with nonprofit organizations, on the strategic use of law towards climate action. 

Violating rules

Fifteen law students worked on the complaint, which they filed at the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP). At the NCP, individuals and communities can bring possible violations forward of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which prescribe rules of responsible business conduct. Kaupa: “This case is specifically about the question whether opening a new gas field should legally be possible in the current climate crisis. We would say it’s quite obvious that it’s not possible anymore.”

Student Renske Natté adds: “New fossil extraction projects will cause further climate breakdown. Corporations which pursue such projects are violating requirements of responsible business conduct.”  

If the NCP accepts the complaint, they will invite One-Dyas to enter a process to engage with the complainants to find a solution. The contact point will also release a final statement on the matter. 

Case against Shell

It’s not the first time that the law clinic has acted against companies. In 2021, students of the clinic filed a complaint against a misleading advertising campaign by Shell regarding the compensation of CO2 emissions. The Advertising Code Committee ruled that the students were right and that Shell had to stop their claims. Last year, the clinic celebrated another success: they won a greenwashing case against Colgate-Palmolive, which stated that their bottles of Ajax all-purpose cleaner were 100 per cent recyclable and made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.    

Acting against greenwashing

Kaupa hopes to inspire others with his clinic. “Climate change can be overwhelming. It is difficult as an individual to do something against it, apart from changing your consumption behavior. One can feel powerless against big corporations, but we are now showing that as individuals you can still do something against these companies. Even young people can bring about change, our previous cases against Shell and Colgate-Palmolive prove that.” 

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