Shell’s exit from Russia: decisive near-term action or long-term intention?


Today, Shell announced [its] intent to withdraw from Russian oil and gas in a press release. “We commend Shell’s ability to admit a mistake [to buy Russian crude last week], to apologize, and to draw a conclusion; steps rarely seen in the oil and gas industry,” says Mark van Baal of Follow This. “Now, the key question is: will Shell withdraw from Russia in the coming years, or will the exit remain a long-term intention, like Shell’s intention to reduce emissions, a promise Shell made in 2017, but does not intend to materialize before 2030.”

Time frame
A question, for example, is does Shell’s pledge to “immediately stop buying Russian crude oil on the spot market” mean other non-spot purchases will continue? Therefore, we look forward to seeing the time frame.”

Bold and brave
“We hope Shell’s bold and brave ambition in light of the Russo-Ukrainian war will be followed by bold and brave decisions in the energy transition by shifting investments from fossil fuels to renewables.”

“We hope Shell’s exit from Russia will accelerate the necessary shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Renewables will not finance Putin’s wars. Russian oil and gas should be replaced by renewables, not by other fossil fuels.”

Apologies and decisions
“Maybe this apology and decision will open the way for apologies and meaningful decisions in response to the climate crisis,” says Mark van Baal.

In step with society
“In the energy transition, Shell speaks in intentions for 2050 rather than hard targets for the near future. The phrase “concerted action by governments, energy suppliers and customers […] will take much longer” in Shell’s press release about Russia is akin to Shell’s mantra to be “a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society”.

Shareholder rebellion
In May 2022, the Follow This climate resolutions will again come to a vote at the shareholders’ meeting of Shell, as well as eight or nine other oil majors. In 2021, investors’ votes in favor of these resolutions showed a shareholder rebellion at Big Oil; in Europe, votes doubled, despite oil majors’ claims to be Paris-aligned; in the US, Follow This won three consecutive majorities.