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‘Go to hell, Shell.’ Climate protests disrupt oil company’s shareholder meeting

<i>Toby Melville/Reuters</i><br/>Protesters from the Fossil Free London group demonstrate outside the venue of Shell's annual shareholder meeting in London
Toby Melville/Reuters
Protesters from the Fossil Free London group demonstrate outside the venue of Shell's annual shareholder meeting in London

By Hanna Ziady, CNN

London (CNN) — Chaotic scenes unfolded at Shell’s annual shareholder meeting Tuesday as climate activists stormed the venue, calling for the oil company to be “shut down” and accusing it of “killing” the planet.

Videos posted by journalists to Twitter showed protesters attempting to climb onto the stage in scuffles with security staff, some of whom stood between the protesters and Shell’s top executives and directors. Security eventually had to physically remove activists one by one from the conference center in London.

A video posted by Follow This, an activist investor group, showed a cluster of attendees standing up and singing “Go to hell, Shell, and don’t you come back no more” to the tune of Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles.

The demonstrations delayed the meeting by more than an hour, according to a Shell spokesperson.

“We respect people’s right to express their point of view and welcome any constructive engagement on our strategy and the energy transition. However, yet again protesters have shown that they are not interested in constructive engagement,” the spokesperson added in a statement shared with CNN.

Shareholders demand climate action

It wasn’t just activists and protesters who demanded that Shell make quicker progress on its plans to cut carbon emissions. Several shareholders also criticized the company for not doing more to deliver on its climate targets.

Shell and peers such as BP (BP) have shifted their focus back to fossil fuel production following a year of bumper profits helped by soaring oil and gas prices.

The ensuing flood of cash to oil companies and their shareholders has not delivered a commensurate boom in renewable energy investments, despite clear evidence that the world needs to move much faster with efforts to address the climate crisis.

The Church of England Pensions Board said it was withdrawing its earlier support for Shell’s energy transition plan as it appeared the company was now taking “a different path.” It voted against the re-election of all of Shell’s directors.

“Despite Shell posting record profits in 2022… its capital expenditure into renewables and low carbon energy is far lower than would be expected by a company seeking to shape a future in the transition,” Laura Hillis, director of responsible investment at the pension fund said at the meeting.

“As a long term institutional investor our duty is to our pension fund members and their long term interests as well as the world they will retire into. These interests are not being served by the short term approach that the company appears to be taking,” she added.

About a fifth of shareholders at the meeting voted in favor of a resolution to force Shell to set more ambitious reduction targets for its “scope 3 emissions,” those that arise from the burning of the company’s products, such as gasoline, jet fuel and natural gas.

“Shell’s current targets will not lead to large-scale absolute emissions reductions by 2030,” Follow This, which put forward the resolution, said in a statement.

The resolution received the same level of support as last year, which is below the 30% backing it won in 2021 when BlackRock (BLK) cast its votes in favor.

Mark van Baal, the founder of Follow This, said the vote “clearly indicates shareholder discontent.”

The spokesperson for Shell said: “Shell has a clear target to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 and we believe our climate targets are aligned with the more ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

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