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Energy giant Shell faces down shareholder revolt over net-zero strategy

·3-min read
Damage to the Shell HQ (XR)
Damage to the Shell HQ (XR)

Shell shareholders have voiced concerns over the company’s environmental plan amid worries it does not go far enough in cutting carbon emissions.

More than one in 10 shareholder votes were cast against a resolution at the company’s annual general meeting that had set out Shell’s energy transition strategy, according to preliminary figures. It came despite backing from an influential green pressure group.

The final vote tally was due later this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

Chief executive Ben van Beurden said the plan was “comprehensive, rigorous and ambitious”, as he asked for shareholders’ backing.

The plan still won nearly 89% of the shareholder vote before the company’s annual general meeting, so will likely be passed, despite concerns from some investors.

“Together with Ben van Beurden you are one of the few people who can make or break the Paris Agreement,” shareholder Mark van Baal told incoming chairman Sir Andrew Mackenzie.

Mr van Baal is the founder of Follow This, a group of shareholders who band together to push oil majors towards a greener future.

“The decisions you will take in your tenure will define how Shell and the world will look like in a few decades from now. By that time your grandchildren will realise what positions their grandfathers held, and will surely ask: What did you do about the climate crisis?” he said.

Mr van Beurden said that his plan includes several elements over the next nine years: “Our production falling by 1% to 2% a year, methane emission intensity at below 0.2%, no new frontier exploration entries after 2025, producing eight tonnes more low carbon fuels than today, storing away up to 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year through CCS (carbon capture and storage), with another 120 million tonnes mitigated each year.”

He said that a separate resolution by Follow This did not add anything that Shell’s proposal did not already deal with.

In response to Mr van Baal, he said: “In your resolution, you ask for us to set and publish targets, we’ve done that. You then say: ‘Can these targets please be consistent with Paris?’ We think they are.

“Then you say there should be long, but also short and medium term targets. Well, we have targets for this year, next year, the year after, 2030, 2035 and 2050.”

He also said that the other factors, such as where emissions come from, have been included in his plan.

“There’s nothing in your resolution that we haven’t taken into account, and haven’t responded to, and that’s why we say the resolution is redundant.”

Yet according to the preliminary results, a large portion of Shell’s shareholders disagreed with their chief executive’s assessment, with more than 30% of votes being cast in favour of Follow This’s resolution.

The Pensions and Investment Research Consultants (PIRC), an influential shareholder adviser, had recommended that investors should vote against Shell’s plan and join Follow This in its resolution.

However, Shell was boosted by the backing of the Climate Action 100+ shareholder group, an influential coalition of investors which includes the Church of England Pensions Board among others.

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