In Italy, the oil company Eni is on trial over its contribution to climate change

A trial pitting state-controlled Italian energy giant Eni against environmental NGOs who hope to force the company to sharply reduce its greenhouse gas emissions opened Friday February 16 in Rome

In Italy, the oil company Eni is on trial over its contribution to climate change

A trial pitting state-controlled Italian energy giant Eni against environmental NGOs who hope to force the company to sharply reduce its greenhouse gas emissions opened Friday February 16 in Rome.

Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon filed this lawsuit, along with 12 citizens from regions of Italy severely affected by extreme weather events, and also want to force Eni to recognize its contribution to climate change. These plaintiffs accuse Eni of pursuing policies “in flagrant violation of the Paris Agreement,” the landmark 2015 agreement aimed at limiting global warming, as well as using “lobbying and greenwashing” strategies to minimize his responsibility.

Taking inspiration from a 2021 court case in the Netherlands, which saw oil giant Shell forced to reduce its emissions, the plaintiffs hope to force Eni to reduce its carbon footprint by 45% by 2030, compared to 2020 levels.

They also want Eni to be forced to make a “statement of responsibility” for the damage caused by its greenhouse gas emissions, which they say are overall greater than those generated by all of Italy.

Alessandro Gariglio, a lawyer for Greenpeace Italy, said the parties exchanged documents, including technical and expert conclusions, on Friday, and the court is expected to set the date for the next hearing soon.

“Rights to life, health and private and family life”

Climate change caused by human activity is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires, putting everyone living on the planet at risk. Greenpeace Italy and Recommon published a report stating that Eni had known about the effects of fossil fuel extraction on the climate since the 1970s. Eni's two main shareholders, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Caisse des Dépôts (CDP), which together hold a third of the shares, are also targeted by the legal action.

The Rome court must determine whether the three parties violated “the human rights to life, health and private and family life.”

Eni had already previously committed to explaining in court its “decarbonization strategy”, which it said reconciles three objectives: “sustainability, energy security and the well-being of the country”. On Friday, the company assured that it will demonstrate during the trial “the lack of basis for the claims of Greenpeace and ReCommon, both legally and factually”.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind filed against a private company in Italy and follows a series of climate-related legal actions around the world.