Shell commits $300m to conservation and carbon offset projects

Shell will offset emissions generated by motorists using its services

Shell’s programme aims to invest in “natural ecosystems” as part of a broader strategy on climate change. Some projects have already been earmarked for funds, including for Staatsbosbeheer, the independent Dutch state forestry service, which plans to plant more than five million trees over the next 12 years.

“There is no single solution to tackling climate change. A transformation of the global energy system is needed, from electricity generation to industry and transport,” Royal Dutch Shell’s chief executive Ben van Beurden said.

“Shell will play its part. Our focus on natural ecosystems is one step we are taking today to support the transition towards a low-carbon future. This comes in addition to our existing efforts, from reducing the carbon intensity of oil and gas operations to investments in renewable sources of energy.”

Shell will offset emissions generated by motorists using its services, as well as those from the extraction, refining and distribution of its fuel. The company believes this could reduce its carbon footprint by 2-3%.

Currently, Shell purchases carbon credits that contribute to a range of conservation projects, including Cordillera Azul National Park Project in Peru, Katingan Peatland Restoration and Conservation Project in Indonesia and GreenTrees Reforestation Project in the US. Each carbon credit is subject to a third-party verification process and covers one tonne of carbon.

The company also plans to invest in restoration and preservation projects for forests and wetlands in order to capture more CO2 and increasing biodiversity. In Queensland, Australia, Shell has established an 800-hectare endangered native forest regeneration project, while in Malaysia, the firm has worked with the Sarawak state government on potential conversation and enhancement projects.

The Nature Conservancy’s chief executive Mark Tercek added: “Last year’s IPCC report was a wake-up call on climate: reducing emissions starts with fossil fuels. Shell’s announcement signals that one of the world’s biggest energy companies is pursuing a decarbonisation strategy with a broad set of solutions, including by investing in nature. By doing so, it is helping to curb global deforestation, restore vital ecosystems, and help communities develop sustainably.

“Shell is the first in the industry to set near-term targets for the emissions of both its operations and its products; this is clear progress, but it also illustrates how much work remains to achieve Paris climate targets. We look forward to seeing further investment from Shell in these areas.”

Court summons

Despite the $300m commitment, Shell is facing legal actions over “slow” progress in reducing its emissions, improving its human rights protections and eliminating oil spills, with green campaign group Friends of the Earth’s (FoTE) Netherlands arm claiming its current business model is “wrecking the climate”.

In a court summons sent to Shell’s headquarters in The Hague, FoTE Netherlands claims that Shell has known about the negative climate and environmental impacts of oil drilling since the 1980s, but has “misled the public” by investing in “greenwashing” advertising and anti-climate lobbying in order to continue drilling for oil.

The energy firm’s overarching goal is reducing the carbon footprint of its energy projects by 2050. Since setting this target, Shell pledged to set shorter-term targets every three to five years, starting in 2020. Effective as of 1 January 2019, the first of these short-term commitments is to deliver a 2-3% reduction of the company’s overall carbon footprint against a 2016 baseline.

Amidst a flurry of carbon and climate-related announcements from energy firms, edie recently published an article exploring the differing levels of climate ambitions among seven of the world’s largest oil and gas majors, and whether they are spurring or hindering the low-carbon transition. 

You can read that piece in full by clicking here

Matt Mace

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