Fueled by Shell Victory, Milieudefensie Takes Bold Step Against ING in Landmark Climate Case
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A groundbreaking lawsuit has been filed against ING Bank in the Netherlands, aimed at holding the financial institution accountable for its inadequate climate policy and harmful contribution to dangerous climate change. This action follows two key threads: the 2021 Shell climate case victory and ING’s persistent failure to align its operations with the Paris Agreement.
The Urgency of Climate Action:
The science is clear: global warming must be limited to 1.5°C to avoid catastrophic consequences. Yet, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, fueled by the activities of polluting companies and their financiers, including ING. As the largest bank in the Netherlands and a major financier of fossil fuels, ING bears a significant responsibility in this escalating crisis.
ING’s Inadequate Climate Policy:
Despite ING’s claims of a climate policy, it falls short of addressing the severity of the situation. The bank’s current targets only apply to a portion of its emissions, leaving a vast section unaccounted for. Moreover, they rely on “intensity targets,” which allow emissions to increase as long as the bank invests proportionally in renewable energy, ultimately making no real impact on overall emissions.
Demands for Change:
The lawsuit presents three key demands for ING:
- Align with the Paris Agreement: ING must set absolute reduction targets for its total greenhouse gas emissions, aligning its policy with the goals of the Paris Agreement. A 50% reduction is necessary to combat the climate crisis effectively.
- Responsible Lending: ING needs to address the environmental impact of its loan portfolio, particularly through its collaboration with large corporate clients. This includes demanding and enforcing robust climate plans from all major clients, disengaging with those who fail to adhere, and adopting stricter policies for fossil fuel companies to phase out their harmful activities.
- Open Dialogue: ING must engage in genuine dialogue with environmental organizations like Milieudefensie to develop and implement effective climate mitigation measures.
Legal Basis and Previous Efforts:
The lawsuit is based on ING’s duty of care, a legal obligation in the Netherlands requiring companies to respect human rights and avoid causing harm. Contributing to climate change jeopardizes fundamental human rights like access to food, water, and health, thereby violating this duty. This legal premise resonates with the successful climate lawsuits against Shell and the Dutch government, highlighting the growing legal recognition of corporate responsibility in addressing the climate crisis.
Exhausted Options and Taking Action:
For almost two decades, environmental organizations have attempted to persuade ING to adopt a more responsible climate policy through studies, discussions, and public demonstrations. Despite these efforts, ING has demonstrated a persistent reluctance to take meaningful action. With time running out, legal recourse becomes the only option to compel the bank to fulfill its environmental responsibility and contribute to a sustainable future.