Milieudefensie takes on ING with legal action on climate change

Milieudefensie's Winnie Oussoren, Donald Pols and Roger Cox at the launch press conference. Photo: Marten van Dijl / Milieudefensie

Environmental campaign group Milieudefensie, the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, is taking ING bank to court, demanding the financial services group lower its carbon footprint and refuse clients who are highly polluting. 

“We are holding ING legally liable for contributing to dangerous climate change,” the green group said in a website statement. ING, it said, is one of the companies whose climate plans are “not sufficient to limit the warming of the earth to 1.5° as stated in the Paris Agreement.”

ING has previously been targeted by Extinction Rebellion which has demonstrated outside its offices and blocked the Amsterdam ring road outside its former headquarters on the outskirts of the city last month.

“ING itself knows a great deal about climate change and described the consequences in their Climate Report of 2022 as follows: ‘a far-ranging impact on many fundamental human rights, including the right to food, health, water and sanitary provisions’,” the Milieudefensie statement said.

The organisation wants ING to cut its total emissions in half and stop working with “polluting companies that jeopardise our future (like oil and gas companies).” In particular it wants ING to demand its clients stop expanding fossil fuel production and draw up a phase-out plan. 

It claims the company itself reported 61 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2022 which, is “more country like Ghana or Sweden”. But this is far from the true picture, Milieudefensie said.

The case is the first launched against a financial institution in the Netherlands. 

Last December ING said it plans to phase out the financing of upstream oil and gas activities by 2040 and triple new financing for renewable energy by 2025.

These steps, the bank said, come after governments at the COP28 climate conference agreed to move away from fossil fuels and triple renewable energy capacity.

“We realise more work will be necessary by all parties to reach a net zero society,” chief executive Steven van Rijswijk said in a press statement. “We will therefore continue to adapt our financing and policies, collaborating with clients, sector experts, scientists, regulators, and governments in addressing the urgency to transition to more sustainable ways of doing business.”

The bank has not yet commented on the Milieudefensie court case. The campaign group previously launched a case against Shell, which was ordered by judges to cut carbon dioxide emissions more quickly than it had planned. That case is now before the appeal court. 

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