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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that its oil production peaked in 2019 and is expected to decline by roughly 1%-2% annually as the company diversifies into lower-carbon energy products and business lines.

Why it matters: It signals how some of the world's most powerful oil-and-gas companies are positioning themselves for a world taking climate change more seriously and responding to calls from investors and activists to do more.

Driving the news: The news arrived in Shell's wider update Thursday morning on its pledge last year to become a "net-zero emissions" business by 2050 while, it hopes, staying attractive for shareholders.

The company intends to raise dividends by roughly 4% annually.

  • Shell said its carbon emissions likely peaked in 2018.
  • It also laid out steeper targets for reducing carbon intensity — that is, emissions per unit output.
  • Shell plans to cut intensity by 6%-8% by 2023, 20% by 2030, and 45% by 2035.

The big picture: Europe-based multinationals all have aggressive long-term emissions targets and are moving more deeply into areas like renewables, power services and carbon removal — even as fossil fuels remain their dominant businesses and investments.

  • On Thursday morning, Shell said it plans to expand its electric vehicle charging network from roughly 60,000 charge points today to 500,000 by 2025.
  • It aims to sell 560 terawatt-hours a year of power to homes and businesses by 2030, double today's levels.
  • Shell is also eyeing the expansion of its hydrogen and biofuels businesses, among other efforts. That includes developing "integrated hydrogen hubs to serve industry and heavy-duty transport."

CEO Ben van Beurden said their overall plans will "drive down carbon emissions and will deliver value for our shareholders, our customers and wider society."

What they're saying: Several activist groups were critical.

“We welcome this step with cautious optimism. However, Shell’s new targets still won’t lead to Paris-consistent emissions levels,” said the activist shareholder group Follow This.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth said Shell's efforts are insufficient.

  • "Only if CO2 emissions are to decrease drastically in absolute terms in the coming years we can prevent dangerous climate change," the group said.
  • And Bloomberg notes that both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace believe the company is "leaning too heavily on reforestation and carbon capture and storage."

Yes, but: Via Reuters, Adam Matthews of the Church of England Pensions Board, which works with companies on climate, said: "Shell’s net zero target is industry-leading and comprehensive as it covers all their carbon emissions."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Feb 10, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Sobering science shows world is woefully behind on Paris climate goals

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Two new studies offer a rough one-two punch on climate change — showing the lagging efforts to meet the Paris Agreement's targets and the health effects of the world's current fossil-heavy energy system.

Driving the news: An analysis in the journal Communications Earth & Environment sheds light on what it would take to hold global temperature rise under 2°C above preindustrial levels.

"Abrupt turnaround": Emissions from ozone-destroying chemicals drop

An image representing the monthly-averaged total of ozone over Antarctica as of February 2021. "The blue and purple colors are where there is the least ozone," per NASA. Photo NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Emissions of ozone-depleting CFC chemicals are back on the decline, five years on from a major spike, an international team of researchers has found.

Why it matters: The surprising findings indicate "we should see recovery of the ozone layer back to levels that we saw in 1980" later this century, said Luke Western, lead author of one of two papers published on the matter in the journal Nature Wednesday, per the BBC.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
14 mins ago - Sports

College football gone mad

Former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly walks in front of his players. Photo: David Madison/Getty Images

In the span of two days, the head coaches of two of the biggest college football programs in America have jumped ship, wooed by even greater challenges — and the almighty dollar.

Driving the news: Lincoln Riley is ditching Oklahoma for USC in a deal reportedly worth $110 million. LSU poached Brian Kelly from Notre Dame with a reported 10-year, $100 million contract.