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Shell’s AGM Spectacle: A Symphony of Greenwashing and Protester Evictions

Posted by John Donovan: 21 May 2024

In what can only be described as a bizarre mix of a bad corporate play and a tragic comedy, Shell’s annual general meeting (AGM) saw its chairman Sir Andrew MacKenzie facing the wrath of climate protesters accusing him of “greenwashing.” Yes, the oil behemoth’s top brass had the nerve to gather at the posh InterContinental London – The O2 hotel to deliver their usual drivel about being eco-friendly while their actions scream otherwise.

Just as Sir Andrew began his theatrical monologue about Shell’s oh-so-ambitious goal of being net-zero by 2050, a horde of protesters burst into a rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” cleverly reworked to “Shell kills, Shell kills, Shell kills.” You could practically hear the facepalms across the room as security rushed to eject the vocal activists.

The room echoed with chants of “Who kills the climate? Shell kills the climate,” as a few brave souls linked arms, creating a human chain to thwart security efforts. Outside, demonstrators were not to be outdone, plastering signs with hard-hitting truths like “Shell profits kill” and “Your greed is killing humanity,” all while a megaphone-wielding protester laid bare the dirty deeds of the oil giant.

In a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance, Sir Andrew defended Shell’s climate strategy, which notably includes scaling back on short-term carbon reduction targets and giving up on reducing oil production by 1-2% annually. This genius move comes courtesy of Shell’s new chief, Wael Sawan, whose brilliant plan is to focus on higher-margin projects and gas production, all to ensure shareholders get their hefty payouts. Because who needs a livable planet when you can have fatter wallets, right?

Amidst the chaos, Sir Andrew spewed some philosophical nonsense about the “speed and shape of change,” conveniently ignoring the inconvenient truth that Shell’s so-called transition strategy is a joke. Just as he wrapped up his greenwash speech, a protester aptly shouted, “That’s all greenwash,” summing up the farce succinctly.

As if this circus needed more acts, the AGM was rife with debates over Shell’s flaccid climate strategy, with two resolutions up for a vote. One from Shell itself begged investors to endorse its watered-down energy transition strategy. Meanwhile, a gutsy 27 institutional shareholders, led by Dutch campaigners Follow This, demanded Shell align its emissions with the Paris Agreement. Spoiler: last year, 20% of shareholders already gave Shell’s plans a big fat thumbs down.

Not surprisingly, advisory firms Glass Lewis and ISS suggested voting against the shareholder resolution, while Pirc, showing some sense, recommended supporting it. Adding to the drama, Reclaim Finance called for voting Sir Andrew off the island – err, board – due to Shell’s pathetic climate strategy.

A Shell spokesman, clearly delusional, claimed: “We respect people’s right to express their point of view and welcome any constructive engagement on our strategy and the energy transition. However, these protesters have shown that they are not interested in constructive engagement.”

In the finale of this farce, he added: “In today’s meeting, you will have heard that Shell is wholly committed to becoming a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, and taking clear action to be the investment case and partner of choice through the energy transition.”

Sure, Shell. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

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