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Campaign group urges ABP to vote for carbon-free Shell

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A group of 67 Dutch professors has urged the €409bn civil service scheme ABP to support a resolution at Royal Dutch Shell’s annual general meeting in May to make the energy firm carbon-free by 2050.

In a letter, published by Dutch daily newspaper NRC, the signatories argued that Shell’s promise last November to halve the carbon footprint of its products by 2050 was insufficient to meet the climate targets of the Paris agreement.

In the opinion of the professors – who formed part of an association of private green-minded shareholders, named Follow This – Shell could become carbon-free by investing its profits in sustainable energy rather than in oil exploration.

The professors said they wanted their pension contributions to be deployed to turn Shell into a sustainable firm.

They said the only alternative for ABP was to divest from Shell – an approach being advocated by NL Fossil Free, another Dutch pressure group.

Many of the signatories to the letter were conducting research on climate, ecology and geophysics. They included Fieke van der Lecq, professor of pension markets at Amsterdam’s Free University and Herman Wijffels, professor of sustainability and social change at Utrecht University.

Wijffels is also co-founder of the Sustainable Finance Lab, former executive chairman of Rabobank and former chair of the Social and Economic Council.

In the past, ABP has voted against resolutions tabled by Follow This. In 2017, it opposed the group’s call on Shell to set CO2 emission targets that would keep global warming considerably lower than two degrees Celsius.

At the AGM, just 6.3% of shareholders supported the resolution, although supporters included large Dutch asset managers, such as MN, Achmea IM, Actiam and Van Lanschot Kempen.

At the time, ABP said it opposed the resolution as it also involved emissions as a result of the use of fossil fuels sold by Shell, so-called “scope three” emissions. ABP agreed with Shell that the oil giant could not be held responsible for these emissions.

However, Shell later announced that it would halve its emissions, including those from its products.

In 2016, ABP also opposed a resolution from Follow This, arguing that shareholders should not step into the board’s shoes. However, according to the professors, this problem could be solved by requesting the board to set goals.

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