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Shell Shareholders Vote Down Climate Change Proposal But Signal They Still Want Action

A vast majority of Royal Dutch Shell shareholders voted down a proposal calling on the company to set specific targets for lowering its carbon dioxide emissions on Tuesday, putting their faith in the company's internal plans to fight climate change.


Only five percent of shareholders at Shell's annual meeting in The Hague voted for the resolution put forward by the Dutch activist group Follow This, which wanted the company to set more specific goals outlining how it would lower emissions to honor the Paris agreement goal of keeping warming to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, MarketWatch reported.

This is the third year in a row that Follow This has put forward a resolution calling for climate action, Bloomberg reported. In November 2017, Shell announced its own plan to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2050, taking into account both its own emissions and the consumer use of the fossil fuels it sells.

"We hear Follow This wants us to take leadership. Your company is taking leadership. My response is: follow us," Bloomberg reported that Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said. "We have ambitions completely consistent and compatible with the Paris agreement."

Follow This had argued that the company's internal plans did not go far enough and were not specific enough, since they did not include any intermediate targets. In particular, they said that honoring the Paris agreement requires a 60 to 65 percent reduction in emissions by 2050, while the company's plan only amounted to a 25 percent reduction overall, since it did not take the projected 50 percent growth of Shell's share in the energy market into account.

The rejected Follow This resolution asked the company "to set and publish targets that are aligned with the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement" and stipulated that the targets needed "to include long-term (2050) and intermediate objectives, to be quantitative, and to be reviewed regularly."

However, a majority of shareholders were content to follow Van Beurden's lead, though some still made a point of signalling their support for climate action.

A group of 27 shareholders with $8 trillion held between them signed a statement calling on Shell and the rest of the oil and gas industry to increase their commitment to lowering emissions, MarketWatch reported.

"We applaud the ambition stated ... and indeed challenge all other oil-and-gas companies to follow suit; but we call for this ambition to be translated into firm medium- and short-term targets," the statement said.

The 27 shareholders, including three of Shell's top 20 investors and the U.S.'s largest pension fund, the California Public Employees' Retirement System, did not go so far as to support Follow This' resolution out of respect for Shell's efforts.

After the vote, Follow This founder Mark van Baal told reporters he was glad the issue had been debated and credited Follow This' previous resolutions with pushing the company to make its own climate action plans, Bloomberg reported.

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