Climate protesters attempted to disrupt the annual shareholder meeting of Shell, the energy giant, in London on Tuesday. Security staff shielded Shell CEO Wael Sawan and other company directors as the protestors tried to take to the stage. After an hour of disruption, the meeting opened and the protestors were carried out by dozens of security staff. At one point, security staff formed a human chain on stage to protect the executives and directors from the protestors.
The protestors, numbering about a dozen, called on Shell to stop producing fossil fuels. They sang, “Go to hell, Shell, and don’t you come back no more,” as Sawan and Chairman Andrew Mackenzie watched. Mackenzie responded to the protestors, “We’ve heard this point many times now. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this debate rather than saying the same thing over and over again?” He added that Shell’s investment in lower-carbon solutions that earn smaller returns than oil and gas projects shows it is taking climate change seriously.
Shell, which reported a record $40bn profit last year, and other major hydrocarbon producers argue that they have to help cover ever-increasing demand for oil and gas. A company spokesperson said the protestors were “not interested in constructive engagement” and pointed to Shell’s plans to become a net-zero carbon company by 2050. Shell is also contending with an increasingly vocal minority of institutional shareholders saying it must move faster to tackle climate change while balancing pressure from other investors to capture profits from oil and gas.
Preliminary figures showed that a fifth of Shell shareholders voted in favour of a resolution submitted by activist group Follow This, calling on the company to set more ambitious emissions targets. The resolution was rejected by Shell’s board. The resolution echoes a ruling by a Dutch court, which told Shell to ramp up its climate targets. Shell has launched an appeal against the ruling. Shell’s own climate strategy resolution won 80% of the vote, in line with last year.
Sawan told reporters after the meeting that “the silent majority is being very clear with us as to their expectations … to find a balanced transition.” Scientists say the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 43% from 2019 levels by 2030 to stand a chance of meeting the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.