Shareholder support for a climate resolution from Dutch activist group Follow This at Royal Dutch Shell reached 30% at the oil and gas major’s AGM today, while Shell’s own management-backed energy transition resolution drew an 11% vote against.
Last year the vote in favour of the Follow This resolution was 14%. There was no competing proposal from Shell itself as it only this year offered shareholders a regular “say on climate”.
Shareholders who voted against Shell’s energy transition resolution at today’s AGM include €238bn Dutch healthcare pension scheme PFZW, BMO Global Asset Management, and Newton Investment Management.
Writing on the PFZW website yesterday, Joanne Kellerman, chair of the PFZW board, said Shell’s objective to be carbon neutral by 2050 made it a leader in the oil and gas industry, but that the path Shell was planning to take showed too little real change.
“We believe that Shell is investing too little in the transition to sustainable energy in the coming years and relying too much on CO2 compensation measures, such as the planting of forests,” Kellerman wrote.
She explained the vote against Shell’s new climate strategy was not intended to penalise the company, but to encourage it to be more ambitious.
“Because we believe that the energy transition can best take place with Shell, not without Shell.”
PFZW has over the years divested the shares of more than 50 companies in the oil and gas industry, including ExxonMobil, Gazprom and Petrobas. Kellerman said the pension fund is aiming to reduce the CO2 emissions associated with its investments by another 30% over the next five years.
Kellerman did not indicate if PFZW had voted in favour of the Follow This resolution, which calls for oil and gas majors to set reduction targets for all emissions, including Scope 3, that are consistent with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
At BMO Global Asset Management, Pieter van Stijn, director, responsible investment, said the asset manager had decided to support the Follow This resolution “[i]n order to signal our reason for voting against Shell’s energy transition plan”.
Ian Burger, head of responsible investment management at Newton, said the asset manager had voted against Shell’s proposed strategy and in favour of Follow This’s resolution, with support for the latter based on the belief that “it is important for Royal Dutch Shell to operate within the parameters of the Paris Agreement”.
“While we acknowledge that there is a lack of clarity in what this means precisely for corporates, we felt it was prudent to support this overarching principle until a more rigorous assessment process is in place,” he added.
Other investors voted in favour of Shell’s new energy transition strategy despite not being fully satisfied with it.
In line with its thinking outlined a few weeks ago, Church of England Pensions Board (CEPB) in a statement today said it supported Shell’s energy transition strategy “not because we believe it is perfect, but it is the first phase of Shell’s transition over this crucial decade”.
“We do so knowing and expecting it will change significantly as the company adjusts to what works and what needs to change,” it said.
CEPB, which co-leads engagement with Shell with Robeco on behalf of Climate Action 100+, has a policy to divest carbon-emitting companies if they do not meet certain standards.
Today it said it would divest its holding in Shell if it did not make certain changes, such as expressing short and medium emission reduction targets in absolute terms, was the case for Shell’s 2050 target.
CEPB also said Shell’s strategy needed to be “kept under review for alignment with the new International Energy Agency (IEA) 1.5°C scenario”.
The IEA today proposed a pathway to net-zero energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, which sees fossil fuels falling from almost four-fifths of total energy supply to slightly over one-fifth.