Controversial plans to drill in Arctic said to be last straw for fellow members of influential European climate grouping
By Megan Darby
Shell has left the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, a network of European business chiefs advocating for climate action.
A source familiar with the matter told RTCC the oil major departed after internal rows over its continued presence.
As the only fossil fuel company in the group, Shell’s membership had always been contentious, the source said – and its Arctic drilling programme was the final straw.
Official spokespersons refused to comment on the reasons for Shell’s exit, which is a blow to its climate credentials in the run up to this December’s Paris summit.
Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, director of the CLG, said: “We have worked with Shell for ten years. They were one of the first in the group.
“It speaks for itself that they have been a very important member of the group.”
Other members of the group, which is supported by the UK’s Prince Charles, include GlaxoSmithKline, Tesco and Unilever.
During its membership, Shell signed up to the Trillion Tonne Communique, which called for a greenhouse gas net zero emissions target this century.
That is the trajectory scientists say is necessary to hold global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, the internationally agreed limit.
Yet the company’s controversial Arctic drilling venture, started last month, is based on energy projections that appear to conflict with that pledge.
Researchers from UCL found a third of known oil reserves worldwide needed to stay in the ground to meet the 2C goal. High cost sources like Arctic oil should be “unburnable” in a 2C scenario, they said.
John Ashton, a former UK climate envoy, described the company’s strategy as “narcissistic, paranoid and psychopathic” in an open letter to chief executive Ben van Beurden earlier this year.
A spokesperson for Shell said: “Energy experts accept that hydrocarbons will remain a major part of the energy system for many decades, as demand for energy grows.
“This is particularly the case in developing economies, whose people rightly aspire to the same standard of living that those in the developed world enjoy.”
The company “remains committed to actively engaging in developing solutions to the global energy challenge,” the spokesperson added.
That includes a carbon capture and storage project in the UK and calling for a global carbon price.
It is part of a coalition of oil majors seeking to play a constructive role in climate talks.
And it quit Washington DC-based ALEC last month, a lobby group known for trying to undermine climate policies.
That stance was “clearly inconsistent with our own”, a Shell spokesperson said at the time.