Shell faces shareholder rebellion over climate activist resolution

Investors including UK’s biggest pension scheme agree to back call for oil firm to set bigger emissions targets

Shell’s board faces a shareholder rebellion as large investors including the UK’s biggest pension scheme prepare to back a climate activist resolution.

Twenty-seven investors have agreed to back a resolution filed by the Dutch shareholder activists at Follow This that calls for the oil company to align its medium-term emissions reduction targets with the 2015 Paris agreement.

The investor coalition together owns about 5% of Shell’s shares and includes the government-backed National Employment Savings Trust (Nest), which manages the pensions of almost a quarter of the UK’s workers.

The resolution has also won the backing of the French asset management firm Amundi, which holds almost €2tn (£1.7tn) in assets, as well as Candriam, Scottish Widows, and Rathbones Group.

Diandra Soobiah, the head of responsible investment at Nest, said: “We urge Shell to set a credible scope 3 absolute emissions target. This would demonstrate leadership, show Shell is serious about transitioning its business, and play a role in generating real world change.”

“Scope 3” emissions include all greenhouse gas emissions that companies do not either generate directly or purchase for their own energy needs. This extends to everything from raw materials used to create a product to the transportation that delivers that product to a consumer.

Shareholders will be asked to vote on the resolution at the £160bn company’s annual general meeting in May. The resolution has already received the backing of investors who together hold about €4tn in assets under management, and support is expected to grow over the months before Shell’s annual general meeting, according to Mark van Baal, the founder of Follow This.

Van Baal said: “This escalation of 27 leading investors puts the call for emissions reductions by energy companies front and centre for all institutional investors.”

Follow This has gained support for its climate campaign in recent years, although the group has yet to win a majority vote in favour of its resolutions. Its latest shareholder resolution has dropped a reference to 2030 in response to criticism from Shell that its demands are too proscriptive.

Shell is expected to face growing opposition from ethical investors and climate activists after abandoning its plans to reduce its oil and gas production before the end of the decade.

The company’s AGM in London last year descended into chaos as climate protests delayed the start of the meeting by an hour, after the board rejected shareholder calls for new targets for carbon emissions cuts.

A Shell spokesperson said: “The 2024 resolution from Follow This is broadly unchanged from their 2023 submission, which was rejected by shareholders (as its variations have been every year since first being submitted in 2016).

“Shell’s board has previously advised shareholders that the Follow This resolution was unrealistic and simplistic, that it would have no impact on mitigating climate change, have negative consequences for our customers, and was against the interests of the company and our shareholders.”

Cover photo: The resolution by Follow This calls for the oil company to align its medium-term emissions reduction targets with the 2015 Paris agreement. Photograph: Chris Helgren/Reuters