Shell Investors Back Weaker Emissions Targets

Shell last updated its energy transition in March. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg News)

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Shell Plc shareholders approved the company’s new energy transition plan with weaker carbon emissions targets, while rejecting a resolution asking the oil and gas giant to align itself with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Shell’s updated energy transition strategy got the backing of 78% of shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in London on May 21. Only 19% voted for the climate resolution, filed by activist shareholder Follow This and 27 investors — including Amundi SA, Europe’s largest asset manager — that jointly manage funds worth more than $4 trillion.

The vote is a setback for Follow This, which has filed climate resolutions at eight of the last nine Shell annual meetings, reaching peak support of 30% in 2021. The group had achieved a small coup this year with the backing of shareholders such as Scottish Widows Ltd., Candriam and Edmond de Rothschild Asset Management.

They want to see strict emissions targets to keep global warming in check as outlined by the 2015 Paris accord. However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s subsequent energy crisis, concerns about security of supply have increasingly competed with climate change for investors’ attention.

Shell last updated its energy transition in March, watering down some of its targets. The London-based major now aims to reduce its net carbon intensity by 15% to 20% by 2030, compared with a previous target of 20%. It also dropped its goal of a 45% reduction by 2035 citing “uncertainty in the pace of change in the energy transition.” Those targets, which were measured against a baseline of emissions in 2016, received the backing of almost 89% of shareholders when they were last put up for a vote in 2021.

The start of Shell’s meeting was briefly delayed by climate protesters, who started chanting and singing when Chairman Andrew MacKenzie began to speak. More than a dozen security guards formed a shield in front of Shell’s board, before the chairman gave them the green light to start to ejecting protesters.

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