CCA Protest at Shell AGM


Over 70 protesters, including members of Christian Climate Action, had each purchased just one share to give them the right to attend Shell’s AGM on 24th May. They brought the meeting to a standstill with a co-ordinated protest that alternated singing and well-researched statements. These highlighted how Shell had known for decades that it was contributing to climate and ecological breakdown, how its oil production had destroyed vast areas of natural habitat, including in the Niger Delta, and its association with the execution of nine climate activists by the Nigerian Government. Protestors appealed to Shell to consider the impact the company’s activities would have on future generations, including the Board’s own children and grandchildren.

Members of CCA sang an adapted version of Amazing Grace [1], chosen because it exemplifies turning from exploitative and colonialist practices: its author, John Newton, had been Captain of a slave trading ship before being converted to Christianity, after which he became a compassionate cleric and abolitionist. They also prayed for the individual members of Shell’s Board, other shareholders and the police officers who attempted to advise them that they were at risk of arrest. 

Val, Kate and Caroline stand up to Shell

Kate Chesterman one of the CCA people inside the AGM says: “The damage Shell have wrought in pursuit of profit, and now their greenwashing as they attempt to position themselves as company transitioning to green energy, seems unconscionable. At the heart of Christianity is grace: the undeserved opportunity to wipe the slate clean, which all of us need repeatedly in our lives.  We sang “Amazing Grace” as a prayer for Shell; that grace will open their Board to the possibility of making better choices and using their technology, influence and money for good, not destruction.  Sadly, as long as they refuse to do that, all we can do in response is peacefully resist them as much as we can.”

The protest continued for nearly an hour and a half before Shell’s Board postponed the AGM. Apart from attempts by Shell’s Chairman, Sir Alan MacKenzie, to bring the meeting to order, the members of the Board remained completely silent and impassive throughout the entire protest.

Meanwhile others from CCA were taking part in a climate justice rally coordinated by the coalition Defund Climate Chaos. Shareholders and Shell employees arriving at the meeting were greeted by our banner telling them that there should be NO FAITH IN FOSSIL FUELS. There were speeches from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and representatives from groups including Friends of the Earth and Fuel Poverty Action and funeral wreaths spelling out the words “Remember, Rise, Resist” were laid to honour the lives worldwide that have been impacted and lost through decades of Shell’s polluting. 

Outside the Shell AGM

The day before the AGM, Christian Climate Action organised a 24 hour prayer vigil outside Methodist Central Hall in Westminster where the AGM was being held. Lots of people joined us in both protesting Shell and making the point that Shell should not be hosted by a faith institution, and five CCA members sat through hours of torrential rain praying overnight. There will be a separate post that reflects the views of some of the Methodists who joined us.

The actions followed the news yesterday that Caroline Dennett, former safety consultant for Shell, has terminated her relationship with the multinational. In a resignation video which was sent to over a thousand of her former colleagues at Shell, Dennett said the fossil fuel giant has a “disregard for climate change risks” and that she “can no longer be a part of it.” Addressing Shell employees directly she said: “The fossil fuel industry is the past. If you can find a way out, please walk away while there’s still time.” [2]

Shell plans to grow its fossil gas business by 20% in the coming years, including seeking approval from the UK Government for ‘Jackdaw’, a new gas field in the North Sea. [3] The emissions from Jackdaw would be equivalent the annual emissions of Ghana. [4] 

This is despite warnings from the UN Secretary General that embarking on new fossil fuel projects is ‘moral and economic madness’. [5] Last year, the International Energy Agency warned that no new coal, oil or gas projects can be developed in order to limit warming to 1.5°C, and last week a report showed that nearly 40% of reserves in already developed fossil fuel sites need to stay in the ground. [6] [7]

After all our action at the Shell AGM we joined the Young Christian Climate Network and Operation Noah in the evening outside Church House to pray for an end to the Church of England’s investments in fossil fuels. Exxon and Total were holding their AGMs the following day and so we focused prayer on Church divestment from those two companies. We were fired up by the words of Revd Ernesto Manuel, Anglican Bishop of Nampula in Northern Mozambique:

“Fossil fuel investments increase climate change and impacts on those most vulnerable, and also destabilise communities. We have seen how over 700,000 people in Northern Mozambique have been displaced – many fleeing for their lives in terror from insurgents. Dozens have been beheaded, even children as young as 12. This violence only occurs in the areas where gas prospecting is taking place. Locals are not consulted and nor do they benefit, only suffering the impacts of rising prices, pollution and loss of land. We plead with the international community – take your money out of fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy which is decentralised, benefits local people and does not contribute to climate change.”[8]

Outside Church House

[1]Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

I pray God’s Grace on all those here,
That you will be His heirs,
And He will bless you as you rid,
Yourselves of all Shell’s shares.

‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace those fears relieved,
How blessed did that Grace appear,
The hour I first believed.

The Niger one day, will be free,
Its Delta clean as snow,
When Shell goes bust, is worthless rust,
And oil no more shall flow.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
We have already come,
When Earth is green and love is seen,
Then Grace will lead us home.

[2] https://www.linkedin.com/posts/caroline-dennett-6161a814_jumpship-truthteller-activity-6934409781495431168-7l1f/?utm_source=linkedin_share&utm_medium=member_desktop_web

[3] Shell plans to grow its fossil gas business by 20%: https://www.clientearth.org/projects/the-greenwashing-files/shell/ 

[3] Shell pressures UK Government to approve Jackdaw: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-61332775

[4] Jackdaw’s emissions will be equivalent to Ghana’s annual emissions: https://www.stopcambo.org.uk/updates/the-campaign-to-stopjackdaw-starts-today 

[5] Secretary-General Warns of Climate Emergency, Calling Intergovernmental Panel’s Report ‘a File of Shame’, While Saying Leaders ‘Are Lying’, Fuelling Flames:  https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sgsm21228.doc.htm

[6] International Energy Agency findings that no new that no new coal mines or oil and gas fields can be developed under a 1.5°C warming limit: https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050

[7] Oil Change International findings that nearly 40% of developed fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground to keep the 1.5°C limit in reach: https://priceofoil.org/2022/05/17/study-existing-oil-gas-and-coal-extraction-sites-need-to-be-closed-down-to-stay-within-1-5c-findings-show/

[8] https://brightnow.org.uk/news/global-faith-institutions-divest-g7-cop26/

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