Disruption by climate campaigners today forced Shell to pause its first AGM since moving headquarters to London.
The company asked for police help when about 80 demonstrators posing as shareholders accused it of human rights abuses, ecocide, fuel climate breakdown and funding misinformation.
After about 40 minutes, Shell chief executive, Ben van Beurden, and the board left the room to shouts from some in the audience of “Out, out, out”.
Earlier, a choir interrupted the chairman’s address with a revised version of Queen’s We Will Rock You, changing words to “we will stop you”.
Other protesters read testimonies of the impact of Shell’s activities in Africa. A banner was unveiled reading “Shell profits from hell on Earth”.
The meeting, at Central Hall Westminster, restarted in a different room after a delay of two-and-a-half hours, but protests continued.
The company, which had planned to debate a climate strategy, said in a statement:
“We respect the right of everyone to express their point of view and welcome any engagement on our strategy and the energy transition which is constructive. However, this kind of disruption of our AGM is the opposite of constructive engagement.
“We agree that society needs to take urgent action on climate change. Shell has a clear target to become a net zero emissions business by 2050.”
Outside the event, funeral wreathes and flowers were laid in a climate justice memorial.
In defiance of the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which has power to outlaw loud protests, demonstrators were encouraged to make as much noise as they could, including shouts of “Shell must fall”.
Two Extinction Rebellion activists scaled the side of the building, displaying banners about fossil fuels and activism.
The Metropolitan Police said three people were arrested outside the hall: two for attempted criminal damage and one for criminal damage.
Earlier this month Shell announced its highest ever quarterly profits at $9.1bn (£7.3bn). Yesterday, a Shell senior safety consultant resigned after 11 years, accusing the company of “double-talk on climate”.
This morning, the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, told people outside the meeting:
“When it rakes in £7.3b in profits in just three months of this year, while planning to spend over £6 million a day on climate-busing oil & gas, what Shell is doing is criminal.”
She called for a windfall tax on company profits and urged Shell to “stop fuelling the climate fire”.
Connor Schwartz, climate lead at Friends of the Earth, said:
“Energy giants like Shell have recently announced record profits, meanwhile people across the UK are grappling with impossibly high energy bills that leave many wondering how they’ll keep the lights on, or mouths fed.
“With living standards declining so rapidly and inflation hitting new highs, it’s not right that oil and gas companies continue to rake in these vast earnings.
“There’s a clear solution that will bring down bills fast, and that’s insulating the UK’s heat-leaking homes. By taxing the excess profits of Shell and others like it, the government can support struggling households and help fund a free street-by-street insulation programme which would be a much-needed lifeline for those most in need.”
Almost exactly a year ago, a court in the Netherlands made a landmark ruling ordering Shell to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030.
Since then, the company has moved its headquarters from The Hague, appealed against the case and reapplied to develop the Jackdaw oil field in the North Sea.
Nine de Pater, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth Netherlands, which brought the Dutch case, said:
“We will win the appeal. We will not back down.”
“It is clear that Shell’s emissions will not decrease enough with their current policy and may even increase. This is a conscious decision by Shell’s Board, even when there is such little time left to prevent runaway climate change. For this they can be held liable.
Today’s rally was coordinated by Defund Climate Chaos, a coalition of groups, including Friends of the Earth, Fossil Free London, Tipping Point and Stop Cambo.
Joanna Warrington, from Fossil Free London, said:
“We can tackle the climate crisis and the cost-of-living scandal, but Shell is standing in the way. It’s pushing ahead with reckless oil and gas projects that would take us far beyond safe climate limits, like the controversial Jackdaw gas field.
“As millions of people struggle to pay bills, Shell rakes in record profits by keeping energy prices high and paying zero tax on its UK oil and gas. This government should be turbo-charging investment in renewables and insulation, not handing whopping tax breaks to companies that burn our future for profit.”
Lauren McDonald, climate activist at Stop Cambo, said:
“The Shell AGM protest is an opportunity to demand that bankers and investors stop funding a dying industry, which is a drain on our economies and our planet’s resources. But it is also a chance for people to come together to mourn and pay their respects to the lives that have been lost and the ecological damage that has already been done by Shell. By bringing this protest to Shell’s doorstep, we will make certain that the devastation they have caused will not be forgotten or ignored.”
Price cap to rise to £2,800 in October
The chief executive of Ofgem, Jonathan Brearley, said today he expected the energy price cap to rise to £2,800 in October 2022. This is £1,500 higher in the space of a year.
Friends of the Earth’s climate campaigner, Sana Yusuf, said:
“That’s not just staggeringly high, it’s incredibly worrying for millions of people across the country who will be wondering how else they can tighten their belts when things are already so squeezed.
“Existing plans to bolster the UK’s energy supply and reduce costs simply aren’t moving fast enough. Clearly, there’s a growing need for emergency support for those unable to meet rising energy prices, while a free street-by-street insulation programme targeted first at struggling households could help to bring down bills quickly before next winter. The government can help to fund this today by taxing fossil fuel companies’ excess profits.”
Reporting at the Shell AGM was made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers