Greenpeace v. Eni is a 2024 human rights law and tort law suit heard by the Civil Court of Rome, Italy related to efforts by several NGOs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by multinational corporations.[1][2] The lawsuit was brought by the Italian branch of Greenpeace, the advocacy group ReCommon, and twelve civil plaintiffs. The suit was filed against energy company Eni and two of its co-owners, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance and the investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.[3][4]

Greenpeace v. Eni
CourtCivil Court of Rome
Full case nameGreenpeace Italy v. ENI S.p.A., the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti S.p.A.

The case, which is based on the 2021 Milieudefensie v Royal Dutch Shell court case, is the first climate change lawsuit filed against a privately owned company in Italy.[3][5]

Background and previous cases edit

In April 2019, Milieudefensie (the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth), Greenpeace, ActionAid and four other NGOs, together with 17,379 Dutch individual claimants, filed Milieudefensie v Royal Dutch Shell, a class-action lawsuit against Shell plc, arguing that the oil corporation should change its business model to reduce their carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, in line with the goals set by Paris Agreement.[6][7] According to the plaintiffs, by failing to adjust to a more sustainable model, Shell had failed to uphold the unwritten duty of care laid down in Book 6 Section 162 of the Burgerlijk Wetboek (Dutch Civil Code), as well as articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[7][8] Hearings at the district court of The Hague were held in December 2020;[7] in May 2021, judges ordered Shell to reduce its global emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, with the reduction targets including emissions both from its operations and products.[9][10] Although Shell appealed the ruling, the case was considered the first major lawsuit to hold a corporation accountable for insufficient measures taken to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.[10][11]

On 5 June 2021, a group of 24 associations and 179 civil plaintiffs (17 of whom were minors), led by non-profit association A Sud (To South in Italian), filed a lawsuit against the Italian government in the Civil Court of Rome, with the main goals of holding national institutions "accountable for the state of danger caused by [their] inertia in tackling the climate change emergency", and securing a ruling that Italy must cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 92% by 2030, as compared to 1990 levels.[12][13] While the co-plaintiffs included members of the Italian branch of Fridays For Future,[12] as well as meteorologist Luca Mercalli [it],[12][13] other notable environmentalist organizations, including Legambiente and the Italian branch of Greenpeace, opted not to support the lawsuit. The president of Greenpeace Italy, Giuseppe Onufrio, justified the decision by stating that court cases should focus on influential companies, rather than institutions, to be more effective.[12][13]

Lawsuit and related events edit

On 9 May 2023, the Italian branch of Greenpeace, the advocacy group ReCommon, and twelve Italian civil plaintiffs announced that they would file a lawsuit against energy company Eni, as well as the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (both involved as co-owners), in the Civil Court of Rome,[3][4] requesting that hearings begin in November of the same year.[4][14] Having been modeled around the Milieudefensie et al v Royal Dutch Shell court case,[14][15] the lawsuit became the first climate litigation against a privately owned company in Italy.[3][4][16] Greenpeace and ReCommon also launched a campaign in support of their lawsuit, named La Giusta Causa (The Right Cause in Italian).[15][17]

The allegations against Eni focused on the company's central role in increasing fossil fuel usage during the latest decades, despite being aware of the risks related to carbon emissions.[3][14] A DeSmog inquiry shared some of the documents used by the plaintiffs as evidence supporting their lawsuit:[18] firstly, a study commissioned by Eni itself to an affiliate research centre between 1969 and 1970, which had underlined the risk of a "catastrophic" climate crisis by 2000, posed by an unchecked rise in fossil fuel usage;[14][18] secondly, a 1978 report produced by Tecneco, another sub-division of Eni, which had accurately estimated that the CO2 concentration would have reached 375-400 ppm by 2000,[5][14] while noting that such changes to the thermal balance of the atmosphere of Earth could have had "serious consequences for the biosphere."[3][14] DeSmog's investigation also found that Eni's magazine, Ecos [it], had repeatedly included references to climate change in articles written throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, while hosting advertising campaigns wrongly claiming that natural gas was a "clean fuel".[5][14][18]

The twelve citizens who joint-filed the lawsuit lived in several different Italian areas that had been affected directly by the consequences of climate change:[3][4][17] for instance, four of them were from Polesine,[17] an area within the Veneto region at high risk of hydrogeological damage due to sea level rise and consequent saltwater intrusion within the delta of the Po River,[3][4] whereas two other plaintiffs lived in heavily-polluted areas of Piedmont, a region hit by persistent droughts in previous years;[17] finally, two citizens hailed from areas that suffered the worst outcomes of the 2018 Vaia Storm.[17]

As a result of these allegations, the plaintiffs asked the court to "acknowledge the damage and the violation of [their] human rights to life, health and an undisturbed personal life" and rule that Eni must cut their emissions from 2020 levels by 45% by 2030, in order to reach the goals set by the Paris Agreement.[4][16] In an official response, Eni's board said they would prove the lawsuit was "groundless", claiming that their decarbonisation plans satisfied "the essential objectives of sustainability, energy security and competitiveness of Italy", while labeling ReCommon's accusations as "repeated defamatory actions".[4][14]

Protests at Eni's headquarters edit

In the night between 4 and 5 December 2023, a group of Greenpeace activists gathered in front of Eni's headquarters in the EUR district in Rome;[19] some of them scaled the building from both sides, before unfurling two banners with the phrase, "Today's emissions = tomorrow's deaths", while others projected anti-fossil fuel and pro-climate justice slogans onto the building.[20][21] The activists also installed an eight-metre block with the phrase, "Eni's legacy = climate deaths" in proximity of the company's headquarters.[20][21] The same day as the demonstration, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai, the Dutch branch of Greenpeace presented two reports on the estimated impact of carbon emissions from nine major European energy companies, including Eni itself, on premature deaths across the continent by 2100.[19][20]

Court hearings edit

The first hearing of the court case took place on 16 February 2024.[1][2][17] Eni appointed liberist economist and Bruno Leoni Institute co-founder Carlo Stagnaro, as well as Polytechnic University of Milan professor Stefano Consonni,[1][2] as their consultants.[1][2] The decision received some criticism for the perceived lack of independence and competence of both consultants:[1][2] Stagnaro and the IBL had openly supported climate change denial theories and groups throughout the 2000s and the 2010s, while the academic résumé of Consonni stated that, since 1993, he had been directly involved in research financed by multiple oil and gas companies, including Eni itself, ExxonMobil and BP Alternative Energy, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy.[2]

On the other hand, Greenpeace, ReCommon and the civil plaintiffs received consulting, among others, from CNR research director Nicola Armaroli, psychotherapist and eco-anxiety expert Rita Fioravanzo, and climate change experts Richard Heede and Marco Grasso.[1] Armaroli was already known for being an advocate for sustainable energy transition,[22] while Heede and Grasso had estimated in a 2023 joint-study, published in One Earth,[23][24] that the 21 "major" fossil fuel companies in the world would owe $209 billion every year, from 2025 to 2050,[23] in compensation for their contributions to climate change.[1][23] Moreover, Grasso had notably resigned from his post as director of an energy transition-related research unit at the University of Milano-Bicocca in October 2022, over the academic institution's failure to provide clarification regarding funding and management of a five-year joint research agreement with Eni.[25][26]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cotugno, Ferdinando (15 February 2024). "Eni alla sbarra. Al via in Italia il primo processo climatico contro l'azienda". Domani (in Italian). Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Levantesi, Stella (19 February 2024). "Climate Trial Against Oil Giant Eni Opens in Italy". DeSmog. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Due organizzazioni ambientaliste e 12 persone italiane hanno fatto causa a Eni e al ministero dell'Economia per i danni del cambiamento climatico". Il Post (in Italian). 9 May 2023. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Talignani, Giacomo (9 May 2023). "Greenpeace, ReCommon e 12 cittadini fanno causa ad Eni per le sue emissioni". la Repubblica (in Italian). Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  5. ^ a b c Romano, Angelo (12 May 2023). "L'ENI citata in giudizio da Greenpeace e ReCommon: "Sapeva delle cause del cambiamento climatico ma ha continuato a bruciare combustibili fossili". La prima causa 'climatica' in Italia". Valigia Blu (in Italian). Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  6. ^ "Milieudefensie dagvaardt Shell in rechtszaak om uitstoot". NOS Nieuws (in Dutch). 5 April 2019. Archived from the original on 27 May 2021. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Boffey, Daniel (30 November 2020). "Shell in court over claims it hampered fossil fuels phase-out". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  8. ^ "Climate change actions against corporations: Milieudefensie et al. v. Royal Dutch Shell plc". Clifford Chance. 13 January 2021. Archived from the original on 19 January 2021. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  9. ^ Brian, Stuart (26 May 2021). "Shell ordered to reduce CO2 emissions in watershed ruling". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 26 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  10. ^ a b Boffey, Daniel (26 May 2021). "Court orders Royal Dutch Shell to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  11. ^ Zindy, Hanna (26 May 2021). "Court orders Shell to slash CO2 emissions in landmark climate ruling". CNN. Archived from the original on 26 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d Cotugno, Ferdinando (6 June 2021). "Una causa ambientale allo stato per costringere la politica ad agire". Domani (in Italian). Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  13. ^ a b c "Anche in Italia c'è una causa allo stato per il clima". Il Post (in Italian). 6 June 2021. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Levantesi, Stella (9 May 2023). "Italian oil firm Eni faces lawsuit alleging early knowledge of climate crisis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  15. ^ a b "Causa civile contro ENI presentata da Greenpeace Italia, ReCommon e 12 cittadine e cittadini italiani: "L'operato della società peggiora la crisi climatica e viola i diritti umani"". Greenpeace Italia (in Italian). 9 May 2023. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  16. ^ a b Wright, Ruth (11 May 2023). "12 Italian citizens are suing one of the world's biggest oil companies". euronews. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Sclippa, Natalie (16 February 2024). "Processo contro Eni. Greenpeace e Recommon portano in tribunale il colosso energetico". lavialibera (in Italian). Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  18. ^ a b c Levantesi, Stella (9 May 2023). "Italy's Eni Faces Lawsuit Alleging Early Knowledge Of Climate Change". DeSmog. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  19. ^ a b "Blitz di Greenpeace a Roma, attivisti scalano palazzo dell'Eni all'Eur e espongono striscione: "Oggi emissioni = domani morte"". la Repubblica (in Italian). 5 December 2023. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  20. ^ a b c Martellini, Laura (5 December 2023). "Attivisti di Greenpeace in azione al palazzo Eni a Roma: scalano l'edificio all'alba". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  21. ^ a b "VIDEO - Blitz di Greenpeace sotto il quartier generale di Eni a Roma: stop a petrolio e gas". Rai News (in Italian). 5 December 2023. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  22. ^ Armaroli, Nicola (20 September 2023). "Sappiamo come uscire dalla crisi climatica, dobbiamo solo decidere se farlo". la Repubblica (in Italian). Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  23. ^ a b c Levantesi, Stella (30 June 2023). "Counting the cost of climate change – and what major emitters should pay for it". Nature Italy. doi:10.1038/d43978-023-00092-x. S2CID 259763334. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  24. ^ Grasso, Marco; Heede, Richard (19 May 2023). "Time to pay the piper: Fossil fuel companies' reparations for climate damages". One Earth. 6 (5): 459–463. Bibcode:2023OEart...6..459G. doi:10.1016/j.oneear.2023.04.012. hdl:10281/416137. ISSN 2590-3322. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  25. ^ Levantesi, Stella (28 October 2022). "Professor Resigns from Research Center Over Partnership with Oil and Gas Major Eni". DeSmog. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  26. ^ Carrer, Laura (27 January 2023). "Prof si dimette per protesta dopo l'intesa fra Eni e Bicocca". Domani (in Italian). Retrieved 26 February 2024.

External links edit