Shareholders sue Shell board over ‘flawed’ climate strategy
Shell's board of directors is facing a new front in climate litigation, as a group of disgruntled shareholders sues the oil giant's directors in the United Kingdom.
Shell directors are being sued individually over the company's climate policy, which the plaintiffs argue is insufficient to meet climate commitments and puts the corporation in danger as the globe shifts to clean energy.
ClientEarth, an environmental law firm, has filed a lawsuit against the 11 directors in England's High Court. According to ClientEarth, this is the first action in the world trying to hold corporate executives accountable for failing to properly prepare their organization for the net zero transition.
The law firm, which owns a small stake in Shell, is suing under the UK Companies Act with the backing of a group of large pension funds and other institutional investors. It argues that a global shift to low-carbon energy is unavoidable as world governments act to end the climate problem, and that Shell's refusal to change quickly enough endangers the company's prosperity and wastes the money of its investors on unnecessary fossil fuel projects.
Shell just claimed a record yearly profit of $40 billion (£33 billion), owing to rising energy costs caused by the war in Ukraine. However, as climate litigation grows in popularity around the world, the corporation has faced a flurry of new legal and regulatory hurdles. These include a Dutch court decision requiring Shell to reduce emissions from its oil and gas operations by 45% by 2030 and a charge that Shell invests less in green energy than it claims.
AP3 Swedish National Pension Fund, Sanso IS French Asset Manager, and Danske Bank Asset Management are also among the investors.
ClientEarth is asking the high court to require Shell's board to develop a climate risk management strategy in accordance with its duty under the Companies Act and in accordance with the Dutch court's ruling for significant reductions in emissions. The high court will now determine whether to hear ClientEarth's claim.
In 2021, the Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce carbon emissions from its oil and gas products by 45% by 2030. Friends of the Earth and over 17,000 co-plaintiffs successfully contended that the firm had been aware of the harmful repercussions of CO2 emissions for decades and that its climate targets were insufficient. Shell plans to appeal the decision.
Earlier this month, a non-profit group filed a complaint with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, saying that Shell misrepresented its investment in renewable energy. Shell, which is headquartered in London but trades on the New York Stock Exchange, has denied deceiving investors.
Concurrently, 14,000 individuals from two Nigerian towns sued Shell in London's High Court, exposing that Shell is responsible for the severe poisoning of their water sources. Shell has stated that it bears no responsibility for organized gangs siphoning oil from its pipelines, which it claims causes many of the disasters and that it is not liable for the activities of its Nigerian subsidiary firm.
Shell has started legal action this month in an attempt to end Greenpeace International protesters' takeover of its oil and gas site. The platform is now being moved to the North Sea through the English Channel. Protesters are demanding that the corporation halt its global expansion of oil and gas production and pay for the climate harm they claim the company is inflicting.
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