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Christians protest outside Shell AGM

26 May 2023

Church of England Pension Board votes against re-election of the Shell directors

Fossil Free London.

The vigil outside the Shell AGM

The vigil outside the Shell AGM

CHRISTIANS were among protesters who disrupted the annual general meeting of the oil company Shell on Tuesday. The campaigners called for the company to stop exploring for new fossil fuels and instead invest in renewable energy.

The protests included a prayer vigil outside the meeting and a protest choir which sang a variety of tunes at shareholders, including a reworded version of the Spice Girls’ 1997 hit “Stop”, while others gave speeches during the meeting. Some even stormed the stage, resulting in the AGM being delayed until security had carried out the protesters.

Ruth Jarman, a member of Christian Climate Action (CCA), took part in the climate choir. She said: “In CCA, we’ve been praying for the conversion of the fossil-fuel companies. These are the principalities and powers of our age but they are run by human beings with hearts and souls as well as minds who are not beyond redemption.

“As I sang, I was praying for the dangerous entity that is Shell to go to hell but for the board of Shell to repent and to spend the rest of their lives redressing the immense damage they have caused.”

In 2021, the International Energy Agency said that exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop if the world was to stay within safe limits of global heating. Despite this, Shell continues to explore for new fossil-fuel reserves. Earlier this month, the oil company announced its highest ever first-quarter profits of £7.6 billion.

A poll commissioned by the charity Christian Aid suggested that two-thirds of UK citizens think that fossil-fuel companies like Shell should take responsibility for the damage their industry has caused to climate vulnerable countries.

Melanie Nazareth, a barrister who took part in the vigil outside the AGM, said: “I’m protesting here at the Shell AGM to highlight that the Shell board are choosing to continue their path of climate destruction when they could be helping the world move to renewable energy.

“As a Christian I am commanded to love my neighbour, and the climate change that Shell is deliberately fuelling in pursuit of ever-increasing profits is killing our vulnerable sisters and brothers around the world. I cannot be a bystander in the face of such injustice.”

At the AGM, the Church of England Pension Board, which invests in the company, voted against the re-election of the Shell directors. In a statement, the Pensions Board said that despite “having the highest capital expenditure of $25 billion among its peers, its capital expenditure into renewables and low carbon energy is far lower than would be expected by a company seeking to shape a future in the transition.” The statement to Shell continued: “You are investing the most of your European peers in upstream oil and gas production.”

The Director of Advocacy at Tearfund, Dr Ruth Valerio, welcomed this intervention. She said: “The Church of England’s vote against the Shell board is a key step in holding the oil giant accountable for the damage they’re inflicting on the climate and people living in poverty.

“The vote is an important signal that the Church is prepared to take a bold stand for God’s world and those most impacted by the climate crisis. Delaying action to phase out oil and gas is catastrophic. The world’s most vulnerable communities can’t be left to suffer while Shell prioritises short-term profits.”

Joe Ware is a senior climate journalist at Christian Aid.

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