How Shell is using Nature Based Solutions to continue its fossil fuel agenda

Shell is planting a fairytale forest. In order to uphold business as usual, Shell is now fixated on protecting and planting trees. Trees for which there is no space to begin with.

Shell's Pipe Dream

Last year, the court ordered Shell to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030. But instead of reducing their carbon emissions, Shell chooses to offset its emissions by protecting and planting trees. Bad move. Read more about why Shell’s plan is a fairytale in our new report.

What does it mean to ‘offset CO2’?
When a company removes the CO2 it emits from the air, by planting trees, for example, we call this CO2 compensation or ‘carbon offset’. Even if the offset does not take place until sometime in the future, it still counts as CO2 compensation. In practice, companies often outsource their compensation. They pay another company or initiative to plant trees in some other part of the world. In this way, these polluting companies buy the right to count a certain amount of CO2 as having been compensated.

Shell's distraction

Shell has announced that it wants to offset no less than 120 megatons of CO2 annually by 2030 by protecting forests or planting trees. This is equivalent to 85% of the annual emissions of the Netherlands. But our report shows that in practice, Shell’s tree-planting story has some major plot holes. Shell only uses these plans as a distraction to maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, they’re still starting new oil and gas projects worldwide, as we speak.

Why Shell's carbon offset plan isn't working

It lacks scientific backing. Many climate scientists dismiss carbon offset projects as an adequate response to dangerous climate change and warn us of the consequences.

  1.  Storing CO2 in trees is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. Shell's CO2 emissions will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years to come. Storing CO2 in a tree is a short-term fix. And let’s not forget that forest fires are more and more common
  2.  When Shell plants trees, they often just plant one tree species. Usually this is the fast-growing eucalyptus tree, which can actually damage biodiversity in the surrounding area.
  3.  A lot of land is needed to offset Shell's emissions. The land they choose is often located in the global South. For this, (agricultural) land belonging to local communities is used, which can lead to human rights violations and food shortages.
  4.  80% of Shell's current CO2 offsets go towards protecting and not planting new trees. These offsets are done through 3 projects in Peru, Kenya and Indonesia, that were examined in our report. All three projects contain serious loopholes.

This sham solution distracts from the real challenge Shell is facing: cutting down on CO2. Shell needs to take the judge’s verdict seriously and reduce their CO2 emissions. No compensation, but reduction. Call on Shell to abide by the verdict.