Apr 16, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Shell pledges to become a "net-zero emissions energy business" by 2050

Ben Geman, author of Generate

Photo: Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

Royal Dutch Shell unveiled wide-ranging new climate goals Thursday that would see the oil-and-gas giant become a "net-zero emissions energy business" by 2050.

Why it matters: It's the latest and among the biggest moves by European-based majors on global warming — one that would require a major transformation of their businesses to succeed.

Driving the news: Shell said it aims to have net-zero emissions from the extraction and manufacture of its products, and the energy for those operations, by 2050.

  • But Shell acknowledges that so-called scope 3 emissions — that is, emissions from use of their products in the economy — are a vastly larger source of Co2, representing about 85% of the emissions linked to the company.

How it works: The plan calls for cutting a large amount of scope 3 emissions in several ways.

  1. Changing their product mix over time to become more climate friendly via ore emphasis on renewables, hydrogen and biofuels. Shell aims to reduce the "net carbon footprint" of products they sell by 30% by 2035 and 65% by 2050.
  2. Expanding use of carbon capture and natural ways to mop up CO2 like reforestation.
  3. Overall, Shell said this will involve working with customers on their emissions-cutting efforts, and developing a method to track those reductions.

The big picture: Shell must "must pivot over time towards serving the businesses and sectors that, by 2050, are net-zero emissions themselves," the announcement states.

What we don't know: "The company did not disclose the financial impact of meeting its new climate targets and said the new goals were not yet reflected in its operating plan and budgets," per FT.

What they're saying: Bloomberg reports on criticism of the plan...

"Shell has taken a step in the right direction, but it falls short of aligning with the Paris climate agreement’s goals, Dutch investor group Follow This said. Shell’s target of reducing scope 3 carbon intensity by 65% by 2050 equates to an absolute cut in emissions of 50%, the group said."

Go deeper: Oil giants announce steep cutbacks

Go deeper

Social media takes on world leaders

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Social media companies are finally beginning to take action on posts from world leaders that violate their policies, after years of letting them mostly say whatever they wanted unfiltered to millions of people.

Why it matters: Government officials are among the users most likely to abuse the wide reach and minimal regulation of tech platforms. Mounting pressure to stop harmful content from spreading amid the coronavirus pandemic, racial protests and a looming U.S. election has spurred some companies to finally do something about it.

Coronavirus cases spike in Texas and Arizona

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed/Axios

Texas, Arizona and Oregon saw significant spikes last week in new coronavirus infections, while cases also continued to climb in a handful of states where steady increases have become the norm.

Why it matters: Nationwide, new cases have plateaued over the past week. To get through this crisis and safely continue getting back out into the world, we need them to go down — a lot.

Some call for fewer police, even as streets erupt

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

"Defund the police" isn't just a slogan on a protester's sign — it's a political movement to relieve cops of responsibility for managing intractable social problems and shift spending to agencies that are better equipped to handle them.

Why it matters: The aftermath of George Floyd's killing has brought a renewed focus to the two dominant trends in policing: sweeping reforms on one side, militarization on the other. Neither of these responses will make our cities safer or our justice system fairer, civil rights activists argue, because the problems are much broader and deeply entrenched in society.