What is Shell's Net Carbon Footprint ambition?
Shell is a big company that supplies around 3% of the energy the world uses. We want to play our part and contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change and meet the goal of the Paris Agreement. Working towards our Net Carbon Footprint ambition is a significant part of how we plan to do this.
What is Shell's Net Carbon Footprint ambition?
The world needs to take urgent action to tackle climate change. The Paris Agreement set a goal of holding the rise in the global temperature well below 2° Celsius, and Shell strongly supports it. The Paris Agreement also said the world should pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius. Significant parts of society are now seeking to meet that higher ambition level and Shell supports this push too. Our ambition is to make sure the energy we sell is in tune with society as it moves towards that goal.
To achieve the 1.5° Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, Shell believes the world is likely to have to stop adding to the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by around 2060. This is a state known as net zero emissions.
But by 2060, the number of people on the planet will have risen by around a third from today to around 10 billion, and people's living standards will have improved.
Together, these trends mean the world will use more and more energy.
Even with a huge improvement in energy efficiency, the world is likely to be using around 50% more energy by 2060, compared to today.
Changing world: moving to a lower carbon energy system
2017 to 2050: The move to a lower carbon energy system
The need for change
The energy system the world has now cannot supply more energy and, at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide. To achieve this, the system must change.
Today's energy system is largely tied to fuels that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when used.
In the future, that system must be made of products which, on average, release much lower levels of greenhouse gases for each unit of energy used.
In other words, they must have a lower carbon intensity, which Shell calls a carbon footprint. The products in the new energy system will include renewable electricity, biofuels and hydrogen, alongside oil and gas.
The three-part answer
Lowering the carbon intensity of the energy products in the energy system is one part of the answer. The second part of the answer is how those energy products are used: how much is consumed and how efficiently.
The third part of the answer is dealing with the carbon dioxide emissions that cannot be avoided. These will need to be removed and stored through natural processes like reforestation or by using technology.
Shell is a big company and we supply around 3% of the energy the world uses. We want to play our part and contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change as we provide energy the world needs.
We must also have a sustainable business model that is in tune with our customers. Shell cannot continue to be financially successful if it does not have this. To that end, Shell decided to set itself a challenging ambition.
We intend to cut the carbon intensity of the energy products we sell, in step with society as it moves towards the goal of the Paris Agreement.
That means fewer greenhouse gases emitted on average with each unit of energy we sell – by 30% by 2035 and by 65% by 2050.
And that includes all the emissions from the life cycle of each of our energy products: from production to processing, to transportation and through to final use. This is what we call our Net Carbon Footprint ambition.
The Paris Agreement: taking immediate action
While our ambition is long term, we believe we must act today. So beginning in 2019, we started setting unconditional targets to reduce our Net Carbon Footprint. Our target announced in 2019 was a reduction of 2% to 3% over three years compared to 2016. Our next target, announced in 2020, was a reduction of 3% to 4% by the end of 2022.
This target setting will be done annually, with each year’s target covering either a three or five-year period. Our executives' pay, and that of around 16,500 staff, is now linked, in part, to this target.
To ensure our Net Carbon Footprint ambition is consistent with the 1.5° Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, we looked at the work done by the IPCC for their Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° Celsius.
Using 1.5° Celsius scenarios prepared for the IPCC report, we evaluated what it might take for society to meet a 1.5° Celsius ambition. We believe our Net Carbon Footprint ambition is consistent with that path.
Governments, regulators and consumers also have a major role to play if the world is to achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement. The world must change the way it uses energy and the types of energy it demands. And if Shell is to meet our ambition we will have to be a part of this effort by changing what we sell.
Shell only controls its own emissions but by changing the mix of energy products we supply, we aim to help and influence others to lower their emissions.
Both energy demand and energy supply must evolve together. This is because no business can survive unless it sells things that people need and buy.
That is why we must remain in tune with society as it moves towards the goal of the Paris Agreement. If society changes its energy demands more quickly, we intend to aid that acceleration. If it changes more slowly, we will not be able to move as quickly as we would like. We will, however, have to move faster than society to make the same progress.
The energy product mix Shell sells today comes with a higher intensity of greenhouse gases than the average in today's global energy system.
One reason is that Shell's product mix includes only a relatively small amount of renewables. This means that we are behind. Our ambition means catching up.
The full range of emissions
This starts with ensuring our operations use energy as efficiently as possible. But this covers less than 15% of the greenhouse gases associated with our energy products. The rest are caused by customers when using our products: by driving their cars, for example.
So our Net Carbon Footprint ambition includes not only Shell's greenhouse gas emissions but also our customers' greenhouse gas emissions from their use of the energy products we sell to them.
That means that, while we will address the greenhouse gases created as we make our energy products, the Net Carbon Footprint ambition means far more for us. Over time, we must change the mix of the products we sell.
Meeting the ambition: how Shell could change
An infographic showing how Shell could change in the future
Instead of solely focusing on our operational emissions, we will seek to reduce our Net Carbon Footprint mainly by increasing the proportion of lower-carbon products in the mix we sell to our customers.
That means fewer products that come with higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and more and more products with lower-or-no emissions.
We will also sell more natural gas. This is because it is a flexible partner to renewable energy sources and can be used to generate electricity with around half the greenhouse gases of coal.
A further example is electricity produced using wind turbines or solar panels. Others are low-carbon biofuels and hydrogen.
Options for change
Lower-carbon options will take time to spread across the planet. Products that can be quickly adopted in one country or region will take longer to take hold in others due to existing infrastructure, wealth and other factors.
This holds true even for rapidly growing innovations like electric cars.
For some uses like planes, ships and heavy trucks, the lower-carbon answers are especially challenging and so oil will still be needed for decades to come. But we want to bring down our Net Carbon Footprint, even as we continue to sell fuels for these uses.
To do this, we will find ways to help nature act as a sponge to soak up excess emissions. Planting forests is an example. We will also use technology, for example by capturing greenhouse gases and storing them underground.
If we achieve our Net Carbon Footprint ambition, Shell will be a radically different company by 2050. What we sell will have changed. And that change will continue.
Here you can find more details on Shell’s Net Carbon Footprint ambition and how we plan to meet it.
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The Scenarios team provides ‘big picture’ insights about how the world is changing – politically, economically, technologically and socially - into sketches to help think about the future.
In tackling climate change, the focus is increasingly on limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5° Celsius. Shell supports this ambition.
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