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Norway’s Wealth Fund to Shell: Could You Please Pretend to Care About the Climate?

So, here we are, with Norway’s wealth fund playing the concerned yet passive shareholder, Shell deftly dodging real climate action, and the planet continuing to warm. What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by John Donovan: 17 May 2024

Norway’s Wealth Fund Politely Asks Shell for Climate Details While Ignoring Real Change

In a delightful twist of corporate responsibility theatre, Norway’s $1.6 trillion sovereign wealth fund has gently nudged Shell for more details about its oh-so-revised climate targets. This request comes hot on the heels of Shell’s move to weaken its 2030 carbon reduction goal and completely axe the 2035 carbon intensity objective. Why? Because of strong gas demand and the general mystery of the energy transition, of course!

But wait, there’s more! Despite the polite nudging, Norway’s wealth fund, which also happens to be the largest equity investor on the planet, decided it wouldn’t back a resolution from a group of 27 shareholders asking Shell to actually strengthen those targets. You know, because why rock the boat when it’s cruising down the river of corporate profit?

These 27 shareholders, who collectively manage a cool $4 trillion, have dared to file a resolution to be voted on at Shell’s annual general meeting (AGM) on May 21. The resolution, led by activist shareholder group Follow This, is the biggest push yet for Shell to align its medium-term carbon reduction targets with the Paris Agreement. This includes cutting emissions from the fuels that Shell’s customers love to burn.

Despite being Shell’s second-largest shareholder with a 3.03% stake, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), the manager of Norway’s wealth fund, isn’t ready to push too hard. After all, Shell’s new CEO has reassured everyone that the energy transition strategy is still totally Paris-aligned. Or at least, that’s what they said on their website. And who wouldn’t take their word for it?

“We have encouraged Shell to make additional strategy disclosures that could reduce uncertainty about the company’s direction in the mid-2030s,” the fund’s statement reads. In other words, “Hey Shell, could you maybe tell us a bit more about your vague future plans so we can pretend you’re serious about this whole climate thing?”

Meanwhile, Shell, always the master of spin, recommended voting against the resolution in a notice ahead of the AGM. Their reasoning? It’s apparently “against both good governance and shareholders’ interests, and also has negative consequences for our customers.” Translation: “We’d rather keep making money the old-fashioned way—by burning the planet—thank you very much.”

So, here we are, with Norway’s wealth fund playing the concerned yet passive shareholder, Shell deftly dodging real climate action, and the planet continuing to warm. What could possibly go wrong?

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