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Shareholder Group Urges Shell to Go Green

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A Shell station with an EV charging station in Tumwater, WA. Washington State Dept. of Transportation / Flickr

When the shareholders of Royal Dutch Shell convene for their annual meeting this May, there will be a surprising item on the agenda.

A group of climate activists from the group Follow This, which urges people to buy shares in Shell in order to push the company towards renewable energy, will present a resolution urging the company to meaningfully increase its commitment to fighting climate change, the Financial Times reported Sunday.


Compared to other fossil fuel companies, the Financial Times reported that Royal Dutch Shell has taken a leadership role in greening the industry. In what it claimed was an effort to align itself with the Paris agreement, it committed in November to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2050 and, in budgeting its footprint, included both its own emissions and those released in the use of its products.

However, the members of Follow This are among those who think Shell's commitment will not be enough to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius.

"The ambitions announced by Shell are inconsistent with the Paris agreement, in particular when taking into account expected global energy demand growth," Follow This founder Mark van Baal told the Financial Times.

Activists told the Financial Times that, according to the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change, global carbon emissions need to decrease by 60 to 65 percent by 2050 in order to meet the Paris goals. However, as long as Shell has a share in the global energy market, which is projected to grow by 50 percent by 2050, its promise will only lead to a 25 percent reduction in emissions over all.

The Follow This resolution calls on the company "to set and publish targets that are aligned with the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C," and insists that those targets "need to include long-term (2050) and intermediate objectives, to be quantitative, and to be reviewed regularly."

But Follow This' ultimate goal is to transform the kind of energy company that defines Shell.

"We will accomplish our mission when Shell's CEO Ben van Beurden says, 'Starting now, we are going to invest in sustainable energy so that Shell will become an entirely sustainable energy company.'" their website says. The group also wants Shell to invest the money it does still earn from fossil fuels into developing renewable energy instead of conducting more oil and gas exploration.

According to the Financial Times, Shell has a budget of $25 to $30 billion a year, but only invests $2 billion of that sum in renewable energy.

The company told The Financial Times they had received Follow This' resolution; the majority of shareholders voted down a similar resolution from the group last year.

Follow This' strategy represents a different way to exert pressure on the fossil fuel industry than the efforts of Oakland and San Francisco to sue five major fossil-fuel-producing companies, including Shell, for the costs associated with adapting to climate change.

The five companies involved in the suit filed a motion last week to have the case dismissed.

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