The boss of oil giant Shell was branded “disgraceful” by environmental campaigners after using the plight of schoolchildren to defend continuing oil and gas production.

CEO Wael Sawan in an interview with the BBC claimed a shortage of liquified natural gas (LNG) had left children in Pakistan and Bangladesh forced to “work and study by candlelight," as he made the case against cuts to oil and gas production that are widely seen as essential to halt global warming.

Campaign group Greenpeace said Shell – which has banked record profits from hydrocarbons since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the energy crisis it sparked – is ignoring the real threat to such youngsters from already-obvious impacts of climate change.

Charlie Kronick, senior climate advisor at Greenpeace UK, said: “Wael Sawan knows full well that climate change is the most dangerous threat currently facing humankind and to pretend that he’s drilling for oil for the sake of Pakistani and Bangladeshi school children, who are already suffering immensely from climate change isn’t just disingenuous, it’s disgraceful.”

Kronick added: “Shell is gaslighting consumers while cashing in on energy price rises, increasing shareholder dividends and slashing investment in renewable energy, which can provide cheap, clean power across the world.”

Claire Fyson, co-head of climate policy at Climate Analytics, told the BBC: "The idea that it's a choice between our addiction to fossil fuels or working by candlelight is a gross misrepresentation of reality, when we know renewables are cleaner, cheaper and better for public health."

Sawan since taking over as CEO early this year has pivoted Shell firmly back to its core business as an oil & gas giant, stressing the company’s “ruthless” approach to maximising value, and that it’s “absolutely committed to our upstream business”.

An apparent cooling on earlier plans to aggressively shift into power and renewables was highlighted by the recent departure of Thomas Brostrom, a former high-flyer with offshore wind giant Orsted who was brought in just two years ago by Sawan’s predecessor.

Get the Recharge News App
Read high quality news and insight on the energy transition on-the-go