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Groups Pressure Shell to End Oil Addiction Before Its ‘Carbon Bubble' Bursts

Climate

Some environmental groups believe Shell's carbon bubble is about to burst. Meanwhile, the company is telling shareholders that fossil fuels will be needed for decades to come.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) UK and Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) released a report Tuesday discusses the high-carbon projects in Shell's pipeline, the company's fossil fuel reserves that can't be burned and its investment in tar sands, which are about five times carbon-intensive than natural gas. The release of the study coincided with protests, a "#carbonbubble" social media campaign and the groups calling on Shell to make a few actions, but mainly to end its addiction to oil.

Protesters sit in "bubbles" outside Shell to encourage the company to end its addition to oil. Photo credit: @wwwfoecouk/Twitter

“By ignoring the carbon bubble Shell is pulling a bigger confidence trick than those who brought down the financial system—they are trying pass off a losing situation as being a sound financial investment to their investors," said Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Asad Rehman. “If they continue to downplay the carbon bubble, Shell jeopardizes ordinary peoples’ hard-earned pension pots and leaves billions of people facing devastating climate change.

“It’s time for Shell investors to wake up and switch their investments to clean energy that will create jobs and benefit the planet.”

The FOE study came out shortly after Shell released its own data and statements in an attempt to assure shareholders that nothing was wrong. The company dismissed climate change as an agenda. Though it recognized the almost universally accepted warming threshold of 2 degrees Celsius, the statement essentially argued that the real warming won't happen for a while.

"We concur with the view in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that there is a high degree of confidence that global warming will exceed 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century," the Shell statement reads. "Yet, this is not to argue that today's low level of action will continue at this pace. Indeed, changes in regulatory priorities could well be relatively sudden. However, because of the long-lived nature of the infrastructure and many assets in the energy systems, any transformation will inevitably take decades." 

Fossil Free UK's Twitter account offered a loose translation to its followers Tuesday morning: 

“Shell may not decide to take the 2-degree limit seriously, but the rest of the world does," said Geert Ritsema, head of the Energy and Natural Resources Campaign at Milieudefensie. “The Netherlands, [European Union], the G8 and the United Nations have all set this as official climate objective. And because global reserves of fossil fuels are five times too large, Shell will have to write off the most expensive and most carbon-intensive reserves first.

“If shareholders are to prevent their shares becoming worthless in the near future, they need to call on Shell now to stop its strategy that one-sidedly aims at investing in unconventional fuels.”

Milieudefensie is calling on Dutch pension giant ABP to disinvest from Shell and for Shell to meet its responsibilities for the environmental and social destruction from its oil operations in Nigeria. Additionally, ShareAction’s Greenlight campaign in the UK wants people to tell their pension funds with holdings in Shell to press the company to cease plans to drill the Arctic.

"If Shell wants to adapt to the required low-carbon future, there are several things the company can do, right now, to make greater progress," the study reads. "[Shell should] cut direct emissions where technologically possible; offer better transparency on their operations and, specifically, the risks climate change has for Shell; and divest from oil and gas projects with a high-carbon intensity."

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