Shell’s announcement marked a major shift for the oil & gas titan. A mere six years ago the same executives dismissed the possibility that warming could stay below 2C. In the years since, however, net-zero initiatives have proliferated, peak oil has come and gone, and the business world has woken up to the risks of global warming.
But there are two problems with far-flung decarbonisation targets. The first: very few of the executives making promises today will be around to take accountability for their success or failure tomorrow. The second: they often have little impact on the company’s lines of business. Companies like Shell continue with business as usual while paying lip service to the work they do to offset that business.
Shell is in the business of selling oil. It is not in the business of planting rainforests. Until it makes material changes to its underlying products and services, investors and shareholders should be wary of giving it a pass.