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Shell Annual Meeting Disrupted by Climate Protest

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Shell AGM protest

Climate protesters delayed Shell’s annual meeting by more than two hours on Tuesday before shareholders eventually voted in favor of the company’s climate and energy transition strategy, but with a smaller majority than last year.

As shareholders arrived for the meeting in London, police struggled to control dozens of protesters outside who were banging on drums and holding up signs urging Shell to stop investing in fossil fuels.

Among some 20 resolutions submitted to the meeting, activist group Follow This had submitted one calling for tougher measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that this was needed to bring Shell into line with the Paris climate agreement.

But voting had not even begun when protesters who attended the meeting interrupted Shell Chairman Andrew Mackenzie's welcome speech with a chant of "We Will, We Will Stop You" — an adaptation of the Queen hit "We Will Rock You."

They accused Shell and its directors of having "blood on your hands" and of profiting handsomely from climate change.

As Mackenzie made repeated attempts to restore order, the 30 or so protesters inside the room occupied an area directly opposite the company’s board and unfurled banners bearing slogans such as "Shell Profits From Hell on Earth."

After half an hour of disruption, during which the Shell directors sat stone-faced in their chairs, Mackenzie said he had no option but to ask security staff to clear the room.

He subsequently announced that some of the protesters had glued themselves to their seats and that it would take more time to remove them.

Shareholders were then asked to take an early lunch while police cleared the room.

Less Support for Shareholder Proposal

The meeting was successfully reconvened in the afternoon, but even that was not without drama as a protester rushed toward the lectern where CEO Ben van Beurden was speaking, but was quickly dragged away by security.

Preliminary results released toward the end of the meeting showed that the Follow This proposal was supported by 20.3% of the votes cast.

That was down from around 30% last year and was in line with a trend of waning investor support for climate proposals submitted by activist investors during this year's round of shareholder meetings at oil and gas companies.

Shell's proposal seeking approval of its climate and energy transition strategy was backed by just under 80% of the votes cast, with around 20% against. Support was down from almost 89% at last year’s meeting.

Shell's board faced numerous questions on Tuesday from shareholders — both institutional and individual — about what the company is doing to speed up its transition to net-zero emissions.

Mackenzie said the voting results showed that "we appear to be on the right track" but added that there was still work to do.

Follow This founder Mark van Baal saw the greater number of ballots cast against Shell's own resolution as showing that "a significant number of investors still want to see Paris-aligned emissions reduction targets."

"Now is the time to amplify the voice of these investors who remain committed to the long-term interest of Shell and its shareholders," he said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Shell issued a statement after Tuesday's meeting that addressed the commotion caused by the protesters.

"We respect the right of everyone to express their point of view and welcome any engagement on our strategy and the energy transition which is constructive," it said. "However, this kind of disruption … is the opposite of constructive engagement," it added.

Topics:
ESG, CO2 Emissions, Corporate Strategy
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