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Shell turns to forests and the earth to soak up its emissions

LONDON (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell set out plans on Thursday to boost the use of nature-based carbon offsets and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, two climate solutions in their infancy but seen crucial to controlling global warming.

Both technologies can mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions Shell and its customers cannot eliminate on the path to the group’s 2050 net zero carbon target.

Shell wants to ramp up its use of nature-based carbon offsets, which include forestation projects, to 120 million tonnes a year by 2030, a big jump given the entire voluntary carbon offset market reached 104 million tonnes in 2019, Ecosystem Marketplace figures show.

Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said in a presentation he could imagine its nature-based offset solution portfolio growing to 300 million tonnes a year. It is currently investing around $100 million a year in this sector.

“Many customers from individuals to companies today have no alternative to using carbon-based energy, but still want to be net zero. We can mitigate emissions as an integral part of the energy solutions we sell them,” van Beurden said.

“The order of priority is this. First, avoid emissions, second, reduce emissions, and only then turn to mitigation.”

Critics of carbon offsets say they allow the continued use of hydrocarbon products rather than their elimination.

Other European oil majors, such as BP, also view carbon offsets as a growth sector.

Greenpeace said in a statement Shell’s plans were based on a “delusional reliance on tree-planting”.

Shell said it aims to boost its use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which filters out carbon before fumes from industrial operations reach the atmosphere and stores it underground or in materials, to 25 million tonnes a year by 2035.

Eventually, Shell, which currently has 4.5 million tonnes of CCS capacity either in use or in the pipeline, aims to sell CCS as a service to other emitters, van Beurden said.

In 2020, global operational CCS capacity stood at around 40 million tonnes, the Global CCS Institute said.

CCS is increasingly viewed as having a major role in reaching the goal of the Paris climate accord to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, but its high cost has so far prevented its use on a commercial scale in the absence of a global price on carbon.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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