Shell’s annual shareholders’ meeting was temporarily suspended on Tuesday after dozens of climate protesters caused disruption, chanting slogans and waving banners.
“Can I assume you don’t want me to talk?” Shell chairman Andrew Mackenzie demanded chants such as ‘we’ll arrest you’ – sung to the tune of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ – and ‘Shell must fall’, delaying the start of proceedings .
Police arrived at the scene in central London but allowed protesters to continue chanting for more than an hour after the meeting was supposed to start.
“We are here to embarrass them and hold them to account,” said Aidan Knox of activists Money Rebellion, which is linked to climate protest group Extinction Rebellion.
Mackenzie and Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden remained on the podium, watching the protests with stone faces, even as a screen behind them said the meeting was ‘temporarily suspended’ and non-protesting shareholders were invited to leave.
After nearly two hours, Mackenzie said police asked all Shell employees, including board members, to leave. Once they left, the demonstrators left voluntarily under the eyes of the police.
Shell said in a statement: “We respect everyone’s right to express their views and welcome any constructive engagement on our strategy and the energy transition. However, this type of disruption…is the opposite of constructive engagement.”
When the meeting resumed later, shareholders backed Shell’s climate strategy, while a proposal by climate activist group Follow This received fewer votes than last year.
Shell is under increasing pressure to develop a more radical climate strategy.
In mid-March, environmental lawyers ClientEarth, which is a shareholder in Shell, announced that they were preparing legal action against Shell executives over the company’s climate transition plan.
In what they said was the first such case, ClientEarth lawyers said they were seeking to hold the oil and gas company’s 13 directors personally responsible for what they see as a failure to prepare. adequately to the global transition to a low carbon economy.
They said the board failed to adopt or implement a climate strategy in line with the 2015 Paris agreement, saying this amounted to an alleged breach of directors’ duties under the UK Companies Act.
In May last year, a court in the Netherlands handed down a landmark ruling that Royal Dutch Shell – as it was once known – must drastically reduce its carbon emissions, in a ruling that has implications for d other fossil fuel companies.
The company must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels, according to a judgment by a district court in The Hague. This includes emissions from its own operations and from the energy products it sells.