watering-down climate targets AND paying its boss £8 million

  • Post last modified:March 14, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

On Thursday 14 March, UK oil and gas giant Shell watered down key targets on cutting carbon emissions, sparking anger from climate campaigners – but still somehow kept its now-nonsense pledge for net zero by 2050. “Piss holes in the snow”, one writer called it. On top of this, Shell also revealed it paid its CEO an eye-watering £8m last year – igniting yet more fury.

The planet-wrecking company, which is investing heavily in renewables, revealed the news in an energy transition update published alongside its annual report. Shell said it had diluted its climate targets, including on “net carbon intensity”, a measurement of emissions produced by each unit of energy sold by Shell.

Shell: cutting climate targets when it was doing the bare minimum already

Shell said net carbon intensity would be cut 15-20% by 2030 compared to 2016 levels. That marked a dilution from its previous 20% target due to a slowdown in electricity sales.

It similarly reduced a target on curbing customer emissions from the use of Shell oil products.

Shell added that it would drop a plan to slash net carbon intensity by 45% by 2035 due to “uncertainty in the pace of change in the energy transition”. However, it still targets a 100% reduction by 2050 – if you can believe it.

In obviously utterly unrelated news, one X user pointed out:

Climate crisis campaigners lashed out at the company’s latest net zero stance, arguing it was counter to the 2015 Paris climate accord, which seeks to limit the increase in average global temperatures to 1.5°c above pre-industrial levels.

Environmental activist shareholders’ group Follow This said:

Shell backtracks on climate targets… [betting] on the failure of the Paris climate agreement. The company wants to stay in fossil fuels as long as possible… [this] not only endangers the global economy by exacerbating the climate crisis but also puts the company’s future at risk.

However, Shell insisted it sought a “balanced and orderly transition away from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy solutions to maintain secure and affordable energy supplies”.

Barely a ‘piss hole in the snow’

Shell still aims to halve emissions generated by its own operations – so-called Scope 1 and 2 activities – by 2030 compared with 2016. It achieved 60% of this target by the end of 2023.

However, this doesn’t include Shell’s Scope 3 activities – the amount of emissions its products create when people/businesses use them. As Clean Technica wrote:

Shell’s… Energy Transition Progress Report for 2022… speaks in glowing terms of the progress it has made in reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. The problem, however, is that its Scope 3 emissions equal 95% of the total emissions attributable to its business, so those reductions don’t amount to a piss hole in the snow in the overall scheme of things.

As one X user pointed out in an interesting thread:

Of course, its CEO seemed immune to this. Wael Sawan said in Shell’s update:

Today, the world must meet growing demand for energy while tackling the urgent challenge of climate change.

Easy for him to say when he pocketed £8m last year, as Shell has also just revealed.

£8m a year for destroying the planet. Thanks, Shell.

That sparked additional fury at a time when millions of Britons are still struggling under a cost-of-living crisis sparked by elevated domestic energy bills.

Jonathan Noronha-Gant, senior fossil fuels campaigner at campaign group Global Witness, said:

Shell’s CEO pay packet is a bitter pill to swallow for the millions of workers living with the high costs of energy.

Meanwhile, Andrew Speke, spokesperson for the High Pay Centre, a think tank focused on pay, corporate governance and responsible business, has responded to Shell’s latest annual report. He argues that the £8m paid to its CEO alongside the watering down of its climate targets, shows that big energy companies like Shell are working against the interests of people and planet:

Whether it’s ordinary people struggling with paying their energy bills or the growing threat of catastrophic climate change, what today’s annual report shows is that these are not major concerns for Shell PLC, which is more interested in prioritising the enrichment of their executives and shareholders.

This is evidence of the urgent need to reform company law, to replace shareholder primacy with a model which places other stakeholders such as workers, consumers and the environment on an equal footing with shareholders, to force companies like Shell to address excessive executive pay and change its practices to support the fight against climate change.

Featured image via Greenpeace

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