Shareholders Demand Stronger Climate Commitment From Oil Giant Shell

I do believe in 2 degrees, but I do not believe I can do it on my own”. The words that Shell’s chief executive Ben van Beurden used at Tuesday’s annual shareholder meeting mirror the company’s ‘could do, won’t do’ attitude to limiting global warming.

Shell’s chairman Charles Holliday described their management of the energy transition after the Paris climate change conference as “so far so good” despite a page one disclaimer in their latest report saying they have no plans to use their pathway to net zero in their next 10-20 year investment horizon.

As van Beurden said in response to a shareholder question: “My expectation that oil will be phased out in 2070 is actually quite arbitrary” going on to say oil and gas could still be relevant until 2100.

Louise Rouse, a capital markets campaigner who attended the annual general meeting (AGM), explained that despite Shell’s positive rhetoric, their actions are still at odds with the investor statements.

And RobecoSAM, a specialist in sustainability investing, said that it was “not entirely convinced” that Shell had integrated climate change into its strategy and argued that “Shell needs to show more leadership than it currently does”.

A coalition of 31 investors with over $5 trillion invested in Shell requested “greater clarity from Shell on specific elements of climate risk reporting and strategy in alignment with a low-carbon future”.

The board said that they looked forward to continuing dialogue with the group.

A resolution was also brought forward by Follow This, a group of green Shell shareholders, asking the oil major to become a renewable energy company.

However, this was overwhelmingly rejected with less than three percent of investors voting in favour – this comes after news earlier this month that Shell has established a New Energies division to invest in renewable and low-carbon power (New Energies will be run alongside Shell’s Integrated Gas division).

In response to the renewables resolution van Beurden said: “We cannot do it overnight [transition to renewables] because it could mean the end of the company.”

It will take an unprecedented amount of effort to bring about a net zero emissions future,” he said, adding “if collectively we find a way to stay within the 2 degree [limit], we will still need significant investment in oil and gas… I am talking about up to a trillion dollars every year.”

Photo: Shell via Flickr