Environmentalists gave the Shell pledge generally positive reviews.
“It’s good that they are looking in the right direction,” said Dan Becker, director of the Washington-based Safe Climate Campaign. “They are ahead of their competitors in recognizing that the days of oil dependence are numbered.”
But he added, “We’ll have to make progress a lot more quickly than they are projecting in order to protect the climate.”
Since the adoption of the 2015 Paris accord, in which most of the countries in the world agreed to set goals to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, international oil companies have begun to make more public pledges to reduce their carbon releases.
Several European oil companies have acknowledged that they would have to leave some carbon resources in the ground. Statoil, the Norwegian oil company, has begun a major shift toward investing in wind power. This month, Shell and seven other oil companies pledged to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from leaky pipes and wells.
Shell is working with BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen to install fast-charging stations on Europe’s highways to make electric cars capable of longer trips. Shell has projected that the expansion of the global electric-car fleet over the next decade will significantly slash gasoline demand.
Perhaps Shell’s most ambitious project is its Quest carbon capture and storage project in Canada, which recovers carbon dioxide emissions from a major oil-sands project and then compresses it into a liquid for storage underground. The project is one of only a few in the world.
While some energy experts say carbon capture could be a useful tool to control climate change, skeptics say the technology is too expensive to be deployed broadly enough to make a real difference.
Generally, European oil companies have moved faster on climate efforts than their American counterparts, partly because there is a broader political consensus on the problem on the Continent. Norway, though a major oil producer, is considering removing oil investments from the holdings of its sovereign wealth fund.
Mr. van Beurden said the company would measure the accomplishments of the carbon-reduction effort in reports every five years. “This is a challenge for the whole planet,” he said.
Shell’s carbon pledge followed a shareholder resolution, backed by the company, that called on Shell to embrace targets to improve its performance to control climate change.
Mark van Baal, founder of Follow This, a group of environmentally minded Shell shareholders that has the support of the Church of England and an assortment of Dutch institutional investors, praised the initiative as “an ambitious decision to take leadership in achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement.”
In the meantime, Shell appears to be making increasing profits from oil and gas. With oil prices and cash flow gradually rising again, Shell announced on Tuesday that it was reviving its all-cash dividend, discarding a program that gave shareholders an option of receiving dividends in shares of stock, which had been depressed in recent years.
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