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Shell announces new carbon target, as shareholder calls for a break up

Part of the massive Pernis refinery. Photo: Shell Media Library

Oil and gas giant Shell is bringing in new, tougher environmental targets, saying it wants to reduce carbon emissions by 50% in 2030, when compared with 2016.

The new target was announced on Thursday, during the publication of the company’s third quarter figures.

Shell is facing pressure to change its strategy on several fronts. In May, some 30% of Shell shareholders backed a motion by campaign group Follow This at the company’s AGM, calling on the oil and gas giant to draw up a more ambitious plan to help meet Paris agreement climate targets.

The move would also appear to be in response to the court case against Shell brought by green groups earlier this year. In that ruling, the court ordered shell to reduce its emissions in 2030 by 45% when compared with 2019.

Until now, Shell has only committed to being carbon neutral by 2050.

The new target is, however, at odds with the wishes of Shell shareholder Third Point, owned by US billionaire Daniel Loeb, who wants the company to break into two, given the pressure it is coming under from environmental activists.

In a letter to Shell, which has been seen by the Financieele Dagblad, Third Point expresses its concern about the company’s strategy and recommends splitting it into two.

One part would focus on oil and gas, and the other on the rest of Shell’s activities including renewables. This change in strategic direction, Third Point says, would make it easier for Shell to both attract and retain investors.

Cheaper

Third Point says that Shell shares are about 35% cheaper than ExxonMobil and Chevron, while the company is well ahead of its US competitors in many respects. The problem, Third Point says, is that Shell does not make choices.

‘This has created an incoherent, conflicting strategy,’ the FD quotes the letter as saying. ‘You can’t be everything at once. Shell has tried this and the result is unhappy shareholders who are thirsty for returns and an unhappy society that wants Shell to do more to reduce CO₂ emissions.’

The FD points out that in 2015, Loeb called for DSM to split into two, with one unit focusing on specialty foods and one on industrial plastics. Although the company did not listen at the time, last month DSM put its materials decision up for review.

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