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Shareholders Can’t Agree if Shell Should Keep Pretending to Care About the Climate or Just Admit They’re in it for the Money

Posted by John Donovan: 28 May 2024

Shell’s Climate Plan Rejected by Activist Shareholders at AGM, Because Who Needs the Planet Anyway?

Shell plc’s annual general meeting (AGM) turned into a circus of protests and shareholder squabbling, with a climate resolution from activist group Follow This getting shot down in flames. The resolution, supported by 27 investors managing around $4 trillion (chump change for Shell), aimed to align Shell’s medium-term carbon reduction targets with the Paris Agreement. Only 18.6% of shareholders gave a damn, down from last year’s whopping 20.2%.

Shell’s “New and Improved” Strategy

Meanwhile, Shell’s board’s half-baked climate strategy received a resounding 78.2% thumbs up from shareholders. This master plan rolled out in March, sets a groundbreaking goal of a 15-20% reduction in the net carbon intensity of energy products by 2030. Never mind that it’s a step back from the previous 20% target and completely ditches the 2035 goal. Shell’s CEO, Wael Sawan, assured everyone that this plan is all about keeping profits high, mostly from oil and gas, because, you know, gas demand is booming, and who can predict the future of energy transition, right?

Activists Are Soooo Unimpressed

Unsurprisingly, Follow This wasn’t buying Shell’s recycled excuses. Mark van Baal, the group’s founder, slammed Shell for sticking to its outdated hydrocarbon love affair instead of investing in clean energy. Despite lower support for the resolution this year, van Baal pointed out that nearly 19% of shareholders are still pushing for real climate action because someone has to.

Protests and General Chaos

The AGM wasn’t just a shareholder snooze fest but a full-on protest party. Climate protesters from Extinction Rebellion and Fossil Free London crashed the event, chanting slogans and calling out Shell’s environmental havoc, especially in places like the Niger Delta. The message was clear: Shell’s snail-paced move toward renewable energy and its ongoing environmental destruction isn’t going unnoticed.

Shell’s Defense: The Show Must Go On

In their defence, Shell’s top brass, Chairman Andrew Mackenzie and CEO Wael Sawan, stuck to their script, arguing the essential role of oil and gas in today’s energy needs. They insisted that cutting off hydrocarbons too soon would spell disaster for global energy security, even as Shell aims to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050. Nothing says “we care about the planet” like doubling down on fossil fuels.

Shareholder Dissent: The Plot Thickens

Despite the overwhelming support for Shell’s lukewarm strategy, over 20% of shareholders still voted against it. This level of opposition means Shell has to listen to these pesky dissenters and report back within six months on how they plan to address their concerns. UK corporate governance rules say so, after all.

Looking Forward: More of the Same?

Shell’s leadership is confident in their path, with Sawan claiming that the drop in support for the Follow This resolution shows growing trust in Shell’s energy transition prowess. Yet, the company remains under fire from activist shareholders and protest groups demanding a faster move toward decarbonization and alignment with global climate goals. The tug-of-war over Shell’s climate strategy is far from over as the company continues to juggle profitability, energy security, and the increasingly urgent need for meaningful climate action.

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