Shell CEO: `We Will Get to a Better Place' on Energy Transformation
The world can’t solve the problem of climate change solely by blaming energy producers like Royal Dutch Shell Plc, said the company’s top executive.
Speaking at an event in London that was disrupted by protesters accusing attendees of destroying the planet, Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said the oil industry has to take radical steps to reduce carbon emissions, but consumers must do the same.
“It’s us as a society that needs to transform, not just the suppliers of energy,” van Beurden said in a Bloomberg TV interview on the sidelines of the Oil & Money conference on Wednesday. “If you want to decarbonize the energy system, it’s not about forcing people to take lower-carbon supply.”
Oil majors are under increasing pressure from investors and the public to move more quickly away from planet-warming fossil fuels. Shell is investing in wind farms, electric car charging and hydrogen, while also continuing to pump billions into its traditional fossil fuels business.
“We are not Big Oil, we are Big Energy,” van Beurden said. In a nod to climate change and the energy transition, the Oil & Money conference will next year change its name to the Energy Intelligence Forum.
Squeezing major oil companies isn’t the answer to climate change, the pressure must be applied equally to consumers, van Beurden said.
“Climate change is the biggest challenge facing the energy industry, but the energy industry is not the biggest challenge for a world trying to tackle climate change,” he said. “We do not pump oil and gas from the ground and then leave it sitting in storage facilities. People consume it. They drive. They cook. They run their businesses.”
While van Beurden and his peers sought to highlight their investments in sustainable energy and carbon reduction, none of them have embraced the more radical steps sought by Extinction Rebellion, which made repeated incursions into the London event to noisily demand the elimination of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
“You can see the acceleration of how society is mobilized, which I think is a good thing,” van Beurden said. But the world needs “a more mature debate where suppliers and users of energy join to figure out how to do things.”