Lawsuit Targets Shell’s Board of Directors Over Energy Transition Plans

Original article by Dana Drugmand republished from DeSmog according to its republishing agreement.

Shell admits in internal documents it has “no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio.”


Exterior view of the Victorian Gothic arched doorways and windows of the pale stone Royal Courts of Justice building
The entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice in London, which houses the UK High Court. Credit: Derived from the original by Seth AndersonCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Shell’s board of directors officially has been served with a world-first lawsuit aiming to hold its corporate directors personally liable for alleged mismanagement of climate risk. The lawsuit, filed Thursday by UK-based environmental law organization ClientEarth, contends that Shell’s strategy to address climate change and manage the energy transition fails to align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and leaves the company in a vulnerable position as society shifts away from fossil fuels.

ClientEarth alleges that inadequate climate strategy by Shell and improper management by the board amounts to violations under the UK Companies Act. ClientEarth, itself a token shareholder in Shell, filed its case in the High Court of England and Wales in London and is suing the company’s 11 directors. Institutional investors with collective holdings of over 12 million shares in Shell are supporting the legal action, which comes on the heels of Shell reporting a record $40 billion in profits in 2022.

“Shell may be making record profits now due to the turmoil of the global energy market, but the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels long term,” ClientEarth senior lawyer Paul Benson said. “The shift to a low-carbon economy is not just inevitable, it’s already happening. Yet the Board is persisting with a transition strategy that is fundamentally flawed, leaving the company seriously exposed to the risks that climate change poses to Shell’s future success — despite the Board’s legal duty to manage those risks.”  

This is the first ever case targeting a company’s board over its handling of climate risk and alleged failure to prepare for the energy transition. As DeSmog previously reported, it is likely just the beginning of such litigation against corporate directors.

Climate Litigation Piling up Against Shell

ClientEarth initiated this new lawsuit last year when it gave notice to Shell’s board of its intention to sue and is the latest in a string of legal actions seeking to hold the oil major accountable for its alleged climate and environmental misdeeds. Earlier this month the environmental and corporate accountability group Global Witness lodged a greenwashing complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claiming that Shell was misleading investors and authorities on its renewable energy spending. 

That complaint came just days after more than 11,300 individuals and 17 institutions from the heavily polluted Nigerian community of Ogale sued Shell in the UK High Court, adding to existing legal claims filed in 2015 by 2,335 residents of the Nigerian community of Bille — bringing the total to over 13,000 people from the Niger Delta taking Shell to court. These claims are demanding damages from oil spills that have devastated the local communities and their environment.

A large white oil storage tank with the yellow and red Shell logo and a thick band of rainbow stripes around it
Shell’s Pernis refinery in the Netherlands. Credit: Steven LekCC BY-SA 4.0

And in May 2021 the Dutch chapter of Friends of the Earth, Milieudefensie, won a landmark climate court case against Shell claiming the company’s business was not aligned with the Paris Agreement’s goals and human rights obligations. The court ordered Shell to slash emissions across its entire supply chain by 45 percent by 2030. Shell is appealing the verdict and appears to be ignoring its duty to comply, as the company has publicly committed to reducing only part of its supply chain emissions — not those released from using their products — by 2030 while continuing to invest in new oil and gas development. 

According to ClientEarth, Shell’s board “has since rebuffed parts of the verdict, indicating that it is unreasonable and essentially incompatible with Shell’s business.” The case against Shell’s board of directors aims to compel the company to comply with the Dutch court verdict and with its legal obligations under the UK Companies Act. Additionally, Shell faces a raft of climate lawsuits in the U.S. brought by states and municipalities over its alleged deception and efforts to derail meaningful climate action despite advanced knowledge of climate risks decades ago.

In response to the new lawsuit targeting the company’s directors, Shell denied that it has acted improperly and said it would oppose ClientEarth’s efforts to pursue its claim through the court.

“We do not accept ClientEarth’s allegations. Our directors have complied with their legal duties and have, at all times, acted in the best interests of the company,” a Shell spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“We believe our climate targets are aligned with the more ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement: to limit the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” the spokesperson continued. “Our shareholders strongly support the progress we are making on our energy transition strategy, with 80% voting in favour of this strategy at our last Annual General Meeting. ClientEarth’s attempt, by means of a derivative claim, to overturn the board’s policy as approved by our shareholders has no merit.”

Telling a Different Story Inside Shell

While Shell claims to support the Paris Agreement and says it will achieve net zero emissions by 2050, internal corporate communications obtained through subpoena by a U.S. congressional committee suggest that the company has no intention to genuinely pursue these objectives.

According to documents released in September by the U.S. House Oversight Committee as part of its investigation into Big Oil and climate disinformation, Shell privately urged caution in communicating about the energy transition due to litigation risk.

In an internal company slide deck on messaging around the energy transition, Shell clarifies that the net zero emissions goal is a “collective” ambition and challenge for society and is not a Shell goal or target. The company states that it “has no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our investment horizon of 10-20 years.”

View the entire document with DocumentCloud

Shell further advised its employees to refrain from suggesting the company would take climate action that risked its fundamental business strategy, writing: “Please do not give the impression that Shell is willing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to levels that do not make business sense.”

In ClientEarth’s view, the oil giant’s failure to advance its own transition to net zero will only harm the company in the long run. “Long term, it is in the best interests of the company, its employees and its shareholders — as well as the planet — for Shell to reduce its emissions harder and faster than the Board is currently planning,” Benson said.

The High Court will next decide if it grants permission for ClientEarth’s case to proceed.

Original article by Dana Drugmand republished from DeSmog according to its republishing agreement.

Continue ReadingLawsuit Targets Shell’s Board of Directors Over Energy Transition Plans

Fossil Fuel-Linked Companies Dominate Sponsorship of COP27

From software giants to soft drinks makers, the vast majority of partners at climate talks in Egypt are enmeshed with the oil and gas industry, researchers find.

Republished from DeSmog according to their republishing guidelines.

Stella Levantesi

ByStella Levantesi

onNov 16, 2022 @ 09:05 PST


Eighteen of the 20 companies sponsoring U.N. climate talks in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh either directly support or partner with oil and gas companies, according to a new analysis shared with DeSmog. 

The findings underscore concerns over the role of the fossil fuel industry at the negotiations, known as COP27, which have become a focal point for deals to exploit African natural gas

“These findings underline the extent to which this COP has never been about the climate: It’s been about rehabilitating the gas industry and making sure that fossil fuels are on the agenda,” said Pascoe Sabido of Brussels-based Corporate Europe Observatory, which co-produced the analysis with Corporate Accountability, a nonprofit headquartered in Boston. 

“These talks are supposed to be about moving us away from fossil fuels, phasing them out,” Sabido told DeSmog. 

A previous analysis by the two organisations and research and advocacy group Global Witness identified at least 636 fossil lobbyists who have been granted access to COP27 – an increase of more than 25 percent compared to the previous COP26 talks held in Glasgow a year ago; and twice the number of delegates from a U.N. body representing indigenous peoples.  

“This is part of the bigger problem which is linked to the overall corporate capture of the U.N. climate talks,” Sabido said. “We need to kick big polluters out.” 

Social license

As documented in the latest edition of DeSmog’s Gaslit column, fossil fuel sponsorship of COP27 represents an extension of a decades-long effort by oil and gas companies to buy social legitimacy by bankrolling sports, arts, and education around the world. 

COP27 partner Hassan Allam Holding, one of the largest privately owned corporations in Egypt, has announced plans to invest  $17.1 billion to turn North Africa into a regional natural gas hub, and $830 million in oil projects over the next two years, the analysis found. 

Sponsors also include Cairo-based Afreximbank, which plans to finance new oil and gas projects through the creation of a multi-billion dollar “energy bank”, and Mashreq, the oldest private bank in the United Arab Emirates, which refinances oil and gas projects. 

Microsoft, which uses cloud-based artificial intelligence to help companies such as Chevron optimize oil and gas extraction, is a partner at COP27, along with rival Google. 

Google says it has cracked down on climate misinformation on its platforms. But the company is still taking money from oil and gas companies to place adverts in search results that present their industry as environmentally friendly, a report found.

German engineering company Siemens, another COP27 sponsor, services firms such as Cairo-based Orascom Construction, which built one of the world’s biggest gas power plants in Egypt in 2018. IBM, also a sponsor, works with pesticide and fertiliser companies to promote “carbon farming” – a carbon offsetting technique that generates carbon credits for storing carbon in soils. Many climate groups believe such practices will provide an excuse for big companies to continue polluting. 

Conflict of interest

The predominance of fossil fuel sponsorship at COP27 cuts a stark contrast with demands from countries facing an existential threat from climate change for urgent action to cut emissions.

Last week, the island states of Vanuatu and Tuvalu became the first countries to back calls to cut greenhouse gas emissions at source by developing a treaty modeled on Cold War-era nuclear arms control agreements to wind down oil, gas and coal production.

Advocates of the campaign for such a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, including a growing number of cities and municipalities, also want to ban fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship. 

“We’ve got numerous countries calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and yet COP27 is sponsored by the same companies either directly funding them [fossil fuels], facilitating the extraction of oil and gas, or using their products,” Sabido said. 

The Boston Consulting Group, an American consulting firm and one of the main COP27 partners, works with Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell. COP27 lead partner Coca-Cola, which relies on plastic bottles derived from hydrocarbons, was named the world’s top plastic polluter for five years in a row by the Break Free From Plastic movement in its annual brand audit. The oil industry is banking on expanding production of plastics and other petrochemicals for its future growth. 

Only two out of the 20 COP27 sponsors, renewable energy provider Infinity Power and real estate developer Sodic, have no strong ties to the fossil fuel industry, the analysis  found. 

Corporate Europe Observatory and Corporate Accountability are calling for the U.N. body that organises the annual climate negotiations to adopt a conflict of interest policy that would exclude fossil fuel companies and their partners from attending or sponsoring the events. 

More than 450 organizations have already supported a campaign to Kick Big Polluters Out of COP27.

“What we need to do is end big polluter sponsorships of the talks, they shouldn’t be allowed to bankroll this process,” Sabido said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to greenwash their image through their presence at COPs.” 

Republished from DeSmog according to their republishing guidelines.

Continue ReadingFossil Fuel-Linked Companies Dominate Sponsorship of COP27