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Shell vows to become carbon neutral by 2050

Shell has pledged to hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 despite a crisis in the oil industry – but urged consumers to play their part in protecting the planet.

The oil major upped its target for reducing its carbon footprint from energy products it sells to customers by around 65% by 2050 – an increase from a target of 50% originally set out in 2016 – and by around 30% by 2035, an increase from around 20%.

The company said it had moved targets following a global shift to a target of lowering average temperature rises to 1.5 degrees in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. A wave of climate activism sparked by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion has piled pressure on the industry.

Bernard Looney, the new boss of rival BP, this year set a target of being net zero carbon by 2050, with Spanish giant Repsol the first to set that goal last December.

Shell said that it is responsible for just 15% of its emissions through generating and consuming energy, and consumers using its products account for 85% of its emissions. It said: “Our customers can themselves take action on emissions.”

The move comes despite the coronavirus puncturing demand for oil. Ships, tanks and pipelines holding oil could be “overwhelmed” in weeks, the International Energy Agency has warned amid what is being dubbed “Black April” for the industry.

Shell boss Ben van Buerden said: “With the COVID-19 pandemic having a serious impact on people’s health and our economies, these are extraordinary times. Yet even at this time of immediate challenge, we must also maintain the focus on the long term.”

“Society’s expectations have shifted quickly in the debate around climate change. Shell now needs to go further with our own ambitions, which is why we aim to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner. Society, and our customers, expect nothing less.”

Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board, said: “This announcement significantly increases Shell’s ambitions and commitments. It is indicative of Shell’s confidence in not only navigating the immediate situation but rightly sets the focus on developing net-zero pathways in key sectors that shape the demand for energy.

“Ultimately, it will be by developing and supporting net-zero pathways in these sectors that we will achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”