Shell’s annual meeting was disrupted by climate activists for the second year in a row as demonstrators inside the venue protested against the British energy major’s continued production of oil and gas.
Within 10 seconds of chair Andrew Mackenzie beginning his introductory remarks, he was interrupted by the first protester who was removed from the venue only for another activist to continue the protest. Each time a protester was hauled out, another stood up.
At one point, after nearly an hour of consecutive disruptions, two activists sought to storm the stage where the board was sitting. Shell’s security team scrambled to stop them, briefly forming a human shield around chief executive Wael Sawan and the other Shell directors.
Tuesday’s shareholder meeting is the first under Sawan, who was appointed in January.
The new chief faced a succession of critical questions from shareholders at the meeting, who challenged the board over the pace at which the company planned to cut its emissions.
The Church of England Pensions Board said it had supported the group when Shell was a “first mover” in the oil and gas industry in 2021 by launching an energy transition strategy that included a commitment to reduce emissions.
“Today, I am sorry to say we see a different path being taken,” Laura Hillis, a responsible investment director at the fund said, pointing to recent comments from Sawan that the company may consider investing in oil and gas production for longer.
Sawan said Shell remained committed to its 2021 energy transition strategy and was delivering on those goals. But he also emphasised, as he has done before, that Shell would continue to invest in oil and gas, while it increased spending on low carbon forms of energy.
“Shell needs business models that are profitable and scalable. Put simply, we invest where we see a clear path towards commercial success,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting, another group of protesters had burst into song chanting “Go to Hell Shell” to the tune of the Ray Charles song “Hit the Road Jack”.
“Extinction rebellion, we will not lie down, we will come back and we will haunt you,” another protester from the UK-based environmental movement screamed as he was carried out of the room by the security team.
Mackenzie remained calm throughout, encouraging the protesters to remain seated and make their statements during the question and answer session. “We want to have a civilised debate,” he said.
Last year, in a different London venue, the meeting was delayed for almost three hours following similar protests.