Shell besieged by critics at Annual General Meeting

Grim Reaper outside Shell AGM in London, by rikki (indymedia)

Many questions left unanswered for Indigenous representatives impacted by Arctic drilling and Alberta Tar Sands in The Hague, whilst ‘Grim Reapers’ stalked the satellite AGM in London.

See this video and more at Indymedia London

Today, Indigenous representatives affected by the Alberta Tar Sands and proposed Arctic drilling addressed Shell executives and shareholders at Shell’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in The Hague, to highlight their concerns with Shell’s operations and lack of adequate consultation with their communities. Meanwhile at the London satellite AGM (connected to The Hague by live video), protesters dressed as ‘Grim Reapers’ in Shell death-masks stood silently during the proceedings.

The four-hour meeting was dominated by criticism by shareholders over Shell’s social and environmental performance, particularly in Nigeria, Alaska and Canada. Shell’s Chair and CEO continually dodged questions, and in at least one case provided misinformation. Community representatives left feeling frustrated that Shell still isn’t taking their concerns seriously.

Robert Thompson, from the village of Kaktovik on the edge of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska, where Shell plans to drill offshore this summer, contested Shell’s ability to clean up a spill under the Arctic ice. “Our village has been there 4000 years. Our biggest concern is spilled oil getting into the ocean and affecting the marine mammals that we depend upon. Your clean-up ability is not adequate,” he told them. Despite the fact that Shell was eager to talk to Thompson afterwards, they were unable to alleviate his specific concerns.

Eriel Deranger spoke on behalf of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) who are currently suing Shell for failure to meet past agreements regarding tar sands projects.

“Shell has failed to address our concerns in Canada’s tar sands, by not meeting environmental standards and past agreements, and refusing to address their impacts on our constitutionally-protected treaty rights, leaving us with no option but to sue them,” stated Deranger. “Now Shell proposes to expand its tar sands projects, further degrading our lands and impairing our ability to practice our constitutionally-protected rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather in the region. Our Chief has said ‘Enough is enough!’ We fully intend to challenge all Shell’s future projects until they can demonstrate a true willingness to implement our rights.”

Shell refused to address Deranger’s concerns, stating that ACFN is nothing more than an anomaly among First Nation communities in Alberta’s tar sands, and that the company is ‘seen as a leader in sustainability issues and community liaison’.

Eriel Deranger, Robert Thompson and Ron Plain outside the AGM in The Hague, by Ben Powless

The Shell board were seemingly surprised at the statement made by another Indigenous representative. Ron Plain, from Aamjiwnaang in Ontario, Canada, revealed, “Tar Sands bitumen, which pollutes ten times as much as normal crude, is flowing through our community. I live in the most polluted place in North America. You’re processing an undisclosed amount of bitumen a fence away from me and you didn’t talk to me. That bothered me enough to come all this way to talk to you.” Shell claimed they were unaware of the situation and that they would get back to Plain.

Noting all these grievances, Ben Powless of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) asked how Shell planned to address the various human rights and environmental problems that are arising for Indigenous communities. “We’ve read that Shell has requirements for minimizing impacts on Indigenous Peoples’ traditional lifestyles, and in our opinion that means they should include the right to free, prior and informed consent in all their projects and principles.” Shell noted that they were actively working with Indigenous communities, but declined to support the implementation of these more specific rights.

Shell’s Chairman, the board and shareholders were provided with a copy of the report “Risking Ruin: Shell’s dangerous developments in the Tar Sands, Arctic and Nigeria” launched last week by IEN and ACFN.

UK Tar Sands Network campaigner Suzanne Dhaliwal asked Shell why, if they accept that CO2 emissions must be reduced, are they actively lobbying against a key piece of EU climate legislation, the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD)? Shell responded with misinformation. Peter Voser, Shell CEO, stated that they objected to singling out one crude as this was unfair. In fact, the FQD addresses emission reductions from a range of unconventional oil sources such as oil shale and coal to liquid gas.

Meanwhile in London, there were protests both inside and outside Shell’s satellite AGM. Five protestors wearing masks combining Shell’s logo with a skull stood silently throughout the meeting reminding the shareholders of the grave human rights and environmental injustices Shell has brought to communities in Nigeria, Rossport (Ireland), the Arctic and Canada – and one put on her mask at the microphone for people in The Hague to see. Another tongue-in-cheek shareholder accused Shell of being in league with a militant gang of cockroaches seeking to wipe out humanity, such is the company’s apparent desire to entrench our reliance on fossil fuels and avoid action on climate change. Outside, protestors dressed as ‘Grim Reapers’ attempted to gain entry before being turned away by security.

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