Roger Cox was interviewed by Philippa Nuttal of the New Statesman magazine.
Link to video: Meet the climate change litigator who took on the fossil fuel companies and won https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfjeEp0H_9c
The lawyer making fossil fuel companies quake
“Roger Cox is the climate change rockstar few people have heard of. Yet his world-leading legal work is showing how corporations and governments can be held accountable for their lack of action to ditch fossil fuels in favour of clean energy.
The name of the Dutch lawyer, 53, may be unfamiliar, but Cox is well-known in esteemed circles – he was the former US vice-president Al Gore’s choice for Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2021. His first landmark case, the Urgenda climate case in 2015, led to the Dutch government being called on to reduce its emissions by 25 per cent by 2020. The second groundbreaking win, which Gore described as a “David vs Goliath legal battle”, saw Cox taking on Royal Dutch Shell in May 2021 for failing to take sufficient measures to reduce emissions. The outcome requires the company to decrease its carbon output by 45 per cent by 2030, and sent ripples around the world.
Speaking to the New Statesman over Zoom, Cox explained how he has managed to elevate climate action in the courtroom. “I spent a few years thinking about how the law could be used as a lever to create a speedier energy transition and address [the] climate crisis properly,” he said, before deciding that human rights and duty of care was the way in. From a moral perspective, it would have been unimaginable not to have tried to use the law to tackle climate change, he added.
Despite the favourable ruling against the Netherlands, the emissions reductions have probably been met “by luck” because of Covid restrictions rather than by the Dutch government implementing adequate measures, said Cox. But, in his view, this is beside the point. “The real value of that verdict is that it changed the way we talk about climate change. The court order changed the narrative around the dangers of climate change, and made the public more aware of what is at stake and what needs to be done.”
Taking on Shell was the next logical step given that “the two main systemic players responsible for the climate crisis are governments and fossil fuel companies,” said Cox. The two are “tightly knit” and if they fail to change their ways, “we won’t be able to avert dangerous climate change”.
In his book Revolution Justified, published in 2011, Cox argued that “only the law can save us now”. Today, his answer is more nuanced. “We are in a big mess, we have a very large crisis and most people don’t understand what the urgency is. Obviously, we need more than court cases.” He cites the youth climate protests and pressure for climate action from investors as “encouraging”.”Nieuws Overzicht