Eni faces Italy's first climate lawsuit
Italy's Eni is facing the first-ever climate lawsuit in the country, as environmental groups accuse the company of employing lobbying and greenwashing tactics to promote fossil fuels despite being aware of the associated risks since 1970.
Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon, an Italian advocacy group, are following in the footsteps of a similar case against Shell in the Netherlands. Shell was brought to court for failing to have sufficient reduction targets for its emissions. The objective of the environmental groups is to compel Eni to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030.
Matteo Ceruti, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, stated, "the urgency of taking action against the climate crisis has prompted us to bring the first climate lawsuit in Italy against the country's largest energy company," according to The Guardian.
The allegations are partially based on a study commissioned by Eni between 1969 and 1970 at its Isvet research centre. This study, shared with The Guardian by the non-profit climate news service DeSmog, emphasised that uncontrolled use of fossil fuels could lead to a climate crisis within a few decades.
According to the report, CO2 levels in the atmosphere had already increased by an average of 10% worldwide due to the increased use of fossil fuels. The report warned that this percentage could reach 25% by the year 2000, resulting in significant consequences for the climate.
Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon have also uncovered a 1978 report produced by Eni's Tecneco division. This report projected a rise in atmospheric CO2 levels by the turn of the century, with a concentration of 375-400 parts per million (ppm) being considered a possible long-term problem with serious consequences for the biosphere.
These predictions have proven to be largely accurate, as the Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration rose from 325ppm to 371ppm between 1970 and 2000, and it is currently around 420ppm.
Further research by DeSmog has revealed that Eni's company magazine, Ecos, repeatedly referenced climate change in the late 1980s and 1990s, while simultaneously running advertising campaigns promoting natural gas as a "clean" fuel.
Eni has not responded to requests for comments on the documents. The lawsuit will also name two government entities, the economy and finance ministry and the development bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, for their influence over Eni. These entities collectively hold the Italian government's one-third ownership stake in Eni.
Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon announced the lawsuit at a news conference in Rome, just prior to Eni's annual general meeting. The groups plan to file the suit in the civil court of Rome by May 19 and request that hearings begin in November.
Eni, with a market capitalisation of nearly $49bn, ranks among the world's top dozen richest oil companies. In 2022, Eni reported a profit of $14.12bn, a significant increase from the previous year. The company operates in over 60 countries across all levels of the oil and gas sector.
According to the Climate Accountability Institute, Eni ranked 24th among global oil and gas majors for cumulative CO2 and methane emissions from 1950 to 2018.