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Climate pressure from employees, shareholders rattles Big Oil

The Washington Post

Climate pressure from employees, shareholders rattles Big Oil

By : May 27, 2022 at 9:09 a.m. EDT

Five years ago, Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden sat down for an interview with The Washington Post and said “we believe that climate change is real. We believe that the threat of climate change is real. And we believe that action is needed.”

Then he added: “It doesn’t mean we have to kiss hydrocarbons goodbye. In fact, we can’t. But it does mean that we have to make more intelligent choices.”

Today, however, Shell and other oil companies are under fire from those who don’t believe industry leaders are making intelligent choices. Dissident shareholders sought to use annual meetings to press their cases this week. And at Shell’s annual meeting in London on Tuesday, dozens of climate activists wore “Christian Climate Action” T-shirts and rhythmically chanted “we will, we will stop you,” forcing the company’s chairman to halt the proceedings for over an hour.

At the heart of the matter is the disagreement over the purpose of big oil and gas companies. Should they do further exploration to meet demand for their products, especially from the world’s poorer nations? Or should they switch to building renewable energy projects while winding down their traditional businesses to meet climate change targets?

“Pressure is mounting at the climate justice front line,” said Caroline Dennett, a Bristol, England-based safety expert on contract with Shell who quit in protest over the company’s climate policies this week. On her LinkedIn page and in a note sent to 1,400 Shell employees, she accused the company of “double talk” and of expanding its oil and gas operations “against the clear warnings from scientists.”

“Shell is fully aware that their continued oil & gas extraction and expansion projects are causing extreme harms, to our climate, environment, nature and to people,” wrote Dennett, who was hired to help Shell avoid the mistakes BP made that led to a massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “I can no longer work for a company that ignores all the alarms and dismisses the risks of climate change and ecological collapse.”

“I would just really love to understand the executive committee,” Dennett said later in an interview. “When they look in the mirror, I just wonder what they see. Do they really believe the strategy they have is really compatible with a livable world?”


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