Image: Caroline Dennett
“I just can’t be a part of this anymore,” Caroline Dennett said matter-of-factly in a video posted to Linkedin on Monday. That video marked her final days as a consultant for Shell, the fossil fuel giant with whom she’d worked for independent agency CLOUD LTD for 11 years in the UK. It accompanied an open letter of resignation filed to 1,400 Shell executives, staff, and contractors that condemned the company for ignoring “all the alarms” and dismissing “the risks of climate change and ecological collapse.”
“I’ve worked with Shell for over 10 years now, empowering tens of thousands of workers to improve safety culture at their worksites,” said Dennett, whose agency specializes in worker safety in high-risk industries, her LinkedIn states. A portion of her work with the fossil fuel company involved surveying Shell employees and coming up with ways to prevent oil spills and accidents, according to her LinkedIn post, like the 2016 catastrophe that saw 88,200 gallons of oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico.“Today I’m quitting because of Shell’s double talk on climate,” she continued. “Shell’s stated safety ambition is to ‘do no harm.’ It’s called ‘Goal Zero’ and it sounds honorable, but they are completely failing on it. They know that continued oil and gas extraction causes extreme harms to our climate, to our environment and to people. And whatever they say, Shell is simply not winding down on fossil fuels. They’re expanding.” Dennett goes on to allege that the company has dismissed known risks to human health and the environment from oil and gas production, and has knowingly continued building out fossil fuel extraction projects despite making a public commitment to achieving ‘Net Zero’ emissions by 2050. As part of this commitment, Shell pledged to reduce emissions from its operations and build out offsets and carbon capture and storage infrastructure. The aim is to help reach a 1.5-degree celsius warming threshold laid out by the 2015 Paris Agreement, set to avert the worst effects of climate change, that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said is extremely unlikely to happen.
As the fossil fuel giant has sold off its dirtiest oil wells (many to producers with looser climate standards) and put a small fraction of its investments into renewable energy in service of its commitment to cutting emissions, critics say its strategies are vague and its reliance on carbon capture and storage reads like a play to continue justifying the buildout of oil and gas extraction. Environmental advocates have instead urged the company to end all new drilling if it is really serious about reaching net zero emissions. Shell did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment on the resignation.Dennett argues in her video and in her resignation email, shared in a comment on the LinkedIn thread by which she announced her resignation publicly, that the company is not committed to reducing emissions. In the same letter, she cited the International Energy Agency’s finding that transitioning to a net zero energy system by 2050 will require ending the creation of new oil and gas fields entirely. She also urged other employees of the fossil fuel industries to “walk away” while there’s “still time.” “I want Shell Execs and Management to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really believe their vision for more oil & gas extraction secures a safe future for humanity,” Dennett said in her LinkedIn post, which had received nearly 800 comments and more than 1,000 shares by mid-day Tuesday. “Shell should be using all its capital, technical and human power to lead this transition, but they have no plan to do this.” “I don't know what impact this action will have on my business and career, and it's possible my reputation may be damaged in the eyes of people I have worked with,” Dennett continued in the post. “However, I feel like there is no other choice I can make.”