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More than 20% of shareholders vote against Shell’s climate strategy at tense AGM

The Shell logo is at a petrol station in London.
The Shell logo is at a petrol station in London. Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
By Rosie Frost
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The meeting was punctuated by protests from groups calling out Shell’s climate record and alleged actions in the Niger Delta.


More than a fifth of shareholders voted against Shell’s current climate strategy during the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in London yesterday.

At the same time, they rejected a climate resolution filed by shareholder activist group Follow This. The NGO, which unites shareholders in oil and gas companies to support climate resolutions, called for the company to align its targets with Paris Agreement goals.

It is the first AGM since Shell scaled back several climate commitments earlier this year.

In March, the company weakened its 2030 carbon reduction targets. It cited a strong demand for gas, uncertainty around the energy transition and a focus on more profitable operations - mainly in oil and gas - as the reasons.

21.8 per cent of shareholders voted against a resolution to approve the updated energy transition strategy.

Under the UK corporate governance code, an opposing vote of 20 per cent requires Shell to explain how it intends to consult shareholders about their views and report back within six months.

Investors urge Shell to align goals with Paris Agreement targets

The resolution from Follow This calling for stronger climate commitments from Shell was backed by almost a fifth of voters (18.6 per cent).

It urged the company’s board to align its short and medium-term decarbonisation goals with Paris Agreement targets, asserting that the company “does not sufficiently demonstrate” how it plans to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

It is a slight drop from last year when a similar resolution was backed by 20.2 per cent of voters. This is despite a record 27 institutional investors holding nearly €4 trillion in assets co-filing the resolution at this AGM.

Although the percentage was down from last year, Follow This founder Mark van Baal said following the meeting that the company “cannot continue to ignore these investors”. He added that almost 19 per cent of shareholders constitutes a “rebellion” as 99 per cent typically vote with management.

“Votes for this climate resolution show which investors are committed to Paris and which investors endorse Big Oil’s refusal to take meaningful climate action.”

Protesters disrupt AGM with chants of ‘Shell kills’

Protesters had gathered outside of the building ahead of the meeting holding signs that read “Shell profits kill” and “Your greed is killing humanity”.

Opening remarks from Shell Chairman Sir Andrew Mackenzie were interrupted by activists from groups including Fossil Free London, Extinction Rebellion UK and the Climate Justice Coalition.

They sang “Shell kills, Shell kills, Shell kills” to the tune of the Dolly Parton song Jolene and were carried out by security staff while chanting “Shell kills”.

The groups were protesting Shell’s record on climate action but also alleged human rights abuses and environmental destruction in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

At one point during the AGM, a woman addressed the board about the situation in the Niger Delta. After speaking for a few minutes she was told she had gone over her allotted time of two minutes and security asked her to leave.

Mackenzie intervened, allowing her to continue. She asked him why she was being hassled by security and who was going to clean up pollution in the Niger Delta after Shell sells its majority stake in the local operator.

Another shareholder confronted the board, pointing out that the only person surrounded by security for speaking longer than their allotted time was a woman of colour.


“[It] makes me, as a shareholder, very uncomfortable, and I hope that it makes the board feel uncomfortable and fellow shareholders,” they said.

At the end of the meeting, the chairman expressed his regret at the way it had been handled and made an apology.

“I’m sorry it didn’t occur in the right way,” he said.

Shell emphasises its net zero by 2050 target

During his opening remarks, Mackenzie emphasised the company’s commitment to reaching net zero by 2050. He argued that the world will still need liquified natural gas as the energy system transitions, adding that “oil will play a vital role for a long way to come”.

The Shell chairman said that, while it may be tempting to stop using oil and gas “before the world is ready”, we must not do so “at the expense of the energy needs and aspirations of a growing global population”.


Shell faces difficult questions from shareholders

During a segment of the meeting for shareholder questions, founder of Follow This Mark van Baal asked the board: “Can you explain how Shell can be Paris-aligned without reducing emissions up to 2030 without using the word believe?”

“Your board wants to continue with the business model of turning hydrocarbons into petro-dollars,” he said

“They don't want to step out of their comfort zone because they don't know how to make profits with clean energy.”

Shell’s chief executive Wael Sawan, who was appointed to the post in January last year, argued that the company’s strategy is “very much aligned” with achieving net zero by 2050. He said Shell is using the most ambitious scenario under the IPCC’s assessment report.

Sawan had urged shareholders should vote against Follow This’s resolution claiming it was “bad for the environment”, “bad for our customers”, “bad for you as shareholders” and “bad for governance”.


"Shell’s shareholders have strongly backed our strategy to deliver more value with less emissions, as we transform to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050," he said after the meeting.

"Our focus on performance, discipline and simplification enables us to invest in providing the energy the world needs today, and in helping to build the low-carbon energy system of the future."

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