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A shareholder revolt against Shell’s board won a fifth vote on Tuesday at a stormy annual general meeting where climate protesters tried to storm the dais.
Security staff shake hands with Shield chairman Sir Andrew MacKenzie and chief executive Vael Savannah as a handful of workers made for the top table.
Fossil Free London later took charge of the crowd, while several other groups also sang and chanted.
“Shut down shell,” dozens of protesters chanted during most of the first hour, making it nearly impossible for Sir Andrew to shut down the meeting.
A climate activist is removed after disrupting Shell’s annual general meeting in London on Tuesday
Chaotic scenes broke out at the Excel conference center in London when shareholders were asked to vote on Shell’s environmental report.
Most did, but an alternative plan proposed by activist investors in Follow This won Shell 20.2 percent of the vote.
“Given that 99 percent of shareholders voted with the board on the other 25 proposals, a significant number of abstentions despite 20 percent supporting and a negative board recommendation clearly indicate shareholder discontent,” observes founder Mark Van. Do it said Bal after the meeting.
Heated exchanges took place throughout the four-hour event, not only between the board and the protesters, but also with shareholders who wanted the company to do more to reduce its environmental impact.
Dozens of protesters were escorted out of the room, one still shouting “climate criminals” as three security guards held her by the arms and legs.
After storming the stage about 50 minutes into the meeting, a woman fainted as she was escorted out by security personnel. Another shouted that three men were taking him out of the room and hurting him.
“Obviously the last incident went a step further than what we experienced in the earlier part of today,” Sir Andrew said after the protesters were cleared. He said that if people tried to come on stage again, they would be removed.
However, the protesters – who had shares of Shell to go into the building – managed to dissuade the other shareholders in the room as well. Some shouted “shut up” and “get a job”.
The meeting was not able to continue as planned for more than an hour in proceedings.
Security personnel repeatedly pulled out the protesters one by one. However, as the disruptions continued, one protester was replaced by another.
A member of the Dutch activist group ‘Milieudefense’ was dragged from a Shell meeting
(AFP via Getty Images)
In the confusion, Sir Andrew also mistakenly asked for security to remove a non-opposing shareholder who had risen to ask the meeting to go ahead.
“Are you telling us to start the meeting? I apologize,” she asked to laughter from the room.
At the start of the meeting, a group of protesters sang to the tune of the Ray Charles song “Hit the Road Jack”: “Go to Hell Shell and Don’t You Come Back No More, No More, No More, No More”.
The first protester to get up shouted: “Welcome to Shell…Participant in destroying people’s homes, livelihoods and lives. Welcome to the hell.”
He said: “I refuse to accept your hell on earth. Board members, directors and shareholders, I have come here to demand that you shut down Shell.” He also said: “Sea levels are rising, and so are people.”
Sea levels are rising, and so are people!
Protesters at Shell AGM
The audience dwindled as the meeting went on as protesters were cleared.
Shareholders were able to ask questions after a few hours, many focusing on Shell’s history of pollution and arguing that it has an inadequate plan to reduce emissions.
Turning to the board, Follow This’s Mr Van Baal said his plan would articulate and strengthen Shell’s climate ambitions.
“I won’t waste any more time, I won’t waste anybody’s time today trying to explain to the Board,” he said, turning his back to Sir Andrew and Mr. Savannah.
“Instead I will address my fellow shareholders: Dear shareholders, your board is determined to stick to hydrocarbons only because you, the shareholders, allow them to do so. Because you continue to vote against shareholder change. “
But Sir Andrew argued that Mr Van Baal’s plan would harm rather than help Shell’s ability to “help the world”.
He said the targets contained in it would “undermine our business”. “This will force us to reduce the number of customers we serve, and more importantly, who we expect to decarbonize,” he told shareholders.
“This will reduce our ability to help the world through our decarbonised products to cut carbon emissions.”
He asked the shareholders to vote against the proposal.
According to the results, he heeded his advice, yet a majority voted to oust him from the board.
Shell said 6.9 per cent of shareholder votes were cast against Sir Andrew’s re-election, while 5.3 per cent voted against the pay package awarded to top executives last year.