Shell became the latest oil & gas giant to unveil a net-zero emissions ambition for 2050, promising more spending on renewables without offering specifics in an announcement that drew a mixed reaction from investors and green groups.
The company – which joins fellow supermajor BP in setting a 2050 goal – said it will cut the net carbon footprint of the energy products it sells by about 65% by mid-century, up from a current target of 50%.
Shell said it will base more of its business around green products like renewable power and hydrogen, and “pivot towards serving businesses and sectors that by 2050 are also net-zero emissions”.
Like other climate-focused announcements by the world's fossil majors, Shell's announcement will be closely scrutinised for signs of 'greenwash', and for concrete actions to back up the ambitions.
The Climate Action 100+ group of investors, which negotiated with the oil group over the 2050 objective, said Shell was making a “significant commitment”. It added: “Investors will now look to other energy companies to match, and build on, the welcome ambition Shell is showing.”
But Greenpeace said: “A credible net-zero plan from Shell would start with a commitment to stop drilling for new oil and gas. Instead, investors are being fobbed off with vague aspirations that don't tackle Shell’s monstrous carbon footprint and pass the buck to Shell’s customers to offset their emissions.
“This is not a net zero plan, it’s a plan to drive us deeper into climate emergency, which will continue to put lives and livelihoods at risk.”
It’s a plan to drive us deeper into climate emergency.
Shell is without question already one of the most active fossil groups in terms of green investments, with a portfolio spanning offshore wind, including floating turbines, green hydrogen, solar and energy storage.
That push is focused on its New Energies unit, led by newly-installed executive vice-president Elisabeth Brinton.
The oil group’s existing plans will see it put $1bn-2bn annually into new energies this year and next, and the group has previously said that could rise to $2bn-3bn per annum.
It said: “As of today, Shell’s operating plans and budgets do not reflect these newly announced ambitions. Shell’s aim is that, in the future, its operating plans and budgets will change to reflect this movement towards its new net-zero emissions ambition.”
CEO Ben van Beurden said in a briefing for investors that increased capital allocation would take place “over time”, without setting out figures.
“We will change our investment profiles. Capital allocation will change over time. That’s not a matter of next month or next quarter.
“In areas like hydrogen and biofuels we need to invest a whole lot more than we are at the moment.
”We are finding ways to accelerate it – hydrogen, biofuels, renewable power.”