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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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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