Shell shareholders reject calls to up climate targets as protestors disrupt AGM
Shell shareholders have been accused of “responding to the lure of dividends” at the cost of the planet after rejecting calls to increase its climate targets for 2030 at the company’s chaotic annual meeting where protestors called, and sang, for change.
Shell’s AGM in London on Tuesday (23 May) was marred by disruption as climate activists demanded that the company revisit its climate plans and boost efforts to address its carbon emissions.
Shell’s boss Wael Sawan, delivering his first annual meeting for the company, asked shareholders to vote against a climate resolution filed by campaign group Follow This that would require the oil major to reset climate targets for 2030.
A preliminary count from the company suggests that shareholders rejected the resolution by 79.8% to 20.2%.
The AGM faced disruptions from the outset, with climate activists and protesters in the crowd singing “Go to hell, Shell”. Disruption from activists lasted for one hour.
Shell AGM disrupted again by ordinary people condemning the oil giant for fueling climate breakdown.#ShutDownShell #ShellLies pic.twitter.com/Qob890JUZi
— Extinction Rebellion UK 🌍 (@XRebellionUK) May 23, 2023
The resolution had been backed by numerous pension funds, but ultimately was rebuffed by the majority of shareholders.
“Considering that up to 99% of shareholders voted along with the board on the other 25 resolutions, 20% of support and a significant number of abstentions in spite of a negative board recommendation clearly indicates shareholder discontent,” Follow This founder Mark van Baal said.
In response, ShareAction’s deputy chief executive Simon Rawson warned that the pressure on energy giants like Shell “will only become more intense” as more investors demand climate action,
“The scale of today’s vote against the Chairman of Shell at its AGM is a clear indication of the growing frustration of shareholders and investors at the company’s failure to adapt its business model and move away from their reliance on climate damaging fossil fuels by moving to cleaner and sustainable forms of energy production,” Rawson said.
“If Shell want to avoid further embarrassment at the hands of their investors then they need to sit down with them and set out a clear roadmap of how and when they will move away from their addiction to fossil fuels. If they do, then they will be making a significant contribution to reducing the impacts of global warming on people and planet.”
Pensions and protests
At the start of the week, Make My Money revealed that the average UK pension invests more than £900 into Shell. However, polling of UK citizens from Make My Money has revealed that 58% have no idea where their money is invested and that more than eight million UK pension holders do not want their savings funnelled into fossil fuel firms and projects.
Make My Money Matter’s chief executive Tony Burdon commented: “UK pension schemes are supporting Shell’s flawed climate plans, and worst of all, they’re using our money to do it.
“Aside from a handful of leaders who spoke out in advance of Shell’s AGM, the majority of the UK pension industry has stayed silent in the face of Shell’s inaction on climate. This contradicts their claims to be climate leaders, runs counter to the views of their members, and threatens the pensions of those whose money they are managing.
“They and other investors must do better. This means declaring that they will vote against, or directing their asset managers to vote against, any fossil fuel company Director who refuses to rule out oil and gas expansion. Anything less is placing people, planet and our pensions in jeopardy.”
Many pension funds signaled their intention to vote in favour of new climate targets at the AGM. Nest, the UK’s largest pension scheme with 12 million members and £29bn in assets under management, stated it would vote against the re-election of Shell’s Chair and its ‘Energy Transition’ resolution. The resolution commits Shell to reduce absolute emissions from its operations and the energy it uses by 50% by 2030, compared with 2016 on a net basis.
Nest has voiced support for the FollowThis resolution. Shell claims it “supports the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement”, which is to limit the rise in global average temperature this century to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Earlier this year, ClientEarth announced that it had filed a lawsuit against 11 Shell directors at England’s High Court. The aim is to get the company to set out a more ambitious and coherent strategy to reduce emissions.
ClientEarth issued the case by arguing that Shell is breaching the UK Companies Act. The case was rejected earlier this month, but ClientEarth has since been granted an oral hearing to ask the Judge to reconsider the decision.
Further disruptions are expected at the annual meetings of other major energy companies which will take place this month. Reclaim Finance’s founder and executive director Lucie Pinson warned, however, that a “vocal minority” demanding change could also be “silenced by the conservative majority” who prioritise profit.
“The votes at Shell’s AGM show that shareholders respond to the lure of dividends, not the calls of scientists. Shareholders who are prepared to vote in line with their own climate commitments are once again in the minority,” Pinson said.
“We can only hope for an improvement at the TotalEnergies AGM this Friday…All those who believed in the capacity of shareholders to carry out strong climate engagement practices must be prepared to mourn.”
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