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AP2 backs call for Shell to turn back on climate-sceptic lobby group

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Sweden’s AP2 has urged Shell to leave several US and European industry groups it argues are obstructing a transition towards a low-carbon economy.

In a letter organised by the UK’s ShareAction, the buffer fund and 18 other institutional investors – including the pension funds for the‎ London borough of Enfield and employees of UK union UNISON – said the oil firm’s continued membership in the trade associations was “inconsistent with Shell’s evolving position on climate change”.

Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction, argued that the trade associations were ”known to do companies’ dirty work when it comes to backroom lobbying on climate policy”.

The signatories include a dozen institutions that backed a recent shareholder resolution for Shell to disclose how it would transition to a low-carbon economy – a resolution endorsed by the company’s management ahead of last month’s AGM.

In the letter, signatories noted comments by Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive, that it might leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which they argued had been “strongly obstructive” when it came to climate change policy.

ALEC was one of a number of industry groups a recent report by the Policy Studies Institute of the University of Westminster said risked damaging its membership by espousing views contrary to firms’ public pronouncements.

At the time, Howarth argued that such “Jekyll and Hyde behaviour” had to stop.

The letter also urged Shell to reconsider its membership with European groups including FuelsEurope and BusinessEurope, which it said had put forward views that were “inconsistent” with the company’s recent statements on climate change.

“It would appear these trade associations have lobbied to weaken two important pieces of legislation,” the letter continues, citing the European Commission’s 2030 policy on climate change and energy, as well as a revision of the European Union’s Emissions Trading System.‎

Leaving the trade associations, which would follow in the footsteps of BP’s departure from ALEC and Unilever’s resignation from BusinessEurope, would “reassure” shareholders Shell’s climate change policy would remain consistent, while also discrediting the associations.‎

The company’s departure from industry groups would also provide a “counter-balance to the unhelpful positions these associations have historically taken on climate and energy policies”, the letter concludes.‎

The letter comes ahead of December’s UN climate conference in Paris that is expected to see developed and emerging countries agree to a new carbon reduction target. 

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