2050: Donald Pols – The Legal Warrior

What is your job?

Director, Friends of the Earth, Netherlands. I am a lobbyist and government advisor on climate change. Most recently, I used the courts to bring multinationals into a national emissions reduction regulatory framework.

How are you helping cool the planet through your work?

By making the biggest polluters accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions while garnering full support from ordinary citizens for new climate policies. As a prerequisite to participate in government projects and receive government funding, we are pushing for a requirement that all large polluters in the Netherlands show how their activities and investments will help hold global temperatures to a 1.5°C rise from pre-industrial levels. In May 2021 the Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its worldwide CO2 emissions by 45% from its 2019 levels by 2030.  

What most surprised you about your job?

Why there has been so little progress since the first global agreement on climate change in 1992. After the 2009 Climate Meeting in Copenhagen, everyone was in tears because the meeting ended without a significant agreement on tackling climate change. We all shared that sense of failure.

What can we do to get more young people into public service?

Do what you love but focus on the climate aspect of it. So, if you dream of becoming a lawyer, become a climate lawyer. If you work in an office, rally your colleagues to demand that your company defines a clear CO2 reduction target.


20 People Helping Cool the Planet by 2050

Carolyn Whelan

Carolyn is a writer, editor and analyst who covers the nexus between business and social justice issues. She broke into journalism at the Rio Earth Summit where she interviewed Al Gore and environmental pioneer David Brower. Topics covered since then range from climate change and higher education costs to drugs pricing, geopolitical strife, business ethics, artificial intelligence, gene editing, alternative energy and the search for good jobs -- and innovation in all these areas. Her pieces, reported from Europe, the US and South America have appeared in Fortune, Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and SciAm.com. Previously she worked for the Economist Intelligence Unit, Barrons.com, Columbia Business School, WWF, the UN and PwC. Carolyn is fluent in French and Spanish and resides in Brooklyn.

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