Energy

Oil giant Shell has a new plan for cutting carbon footprint: Planting millions of trees

Key Points
  • Royal Dutch Shell plans to invest $300 million over three years in reforestation projects, including in the Netherlands and Spain.
  • The initiative and others aim to offset the carbon emissions produced when customers consume the fossil fuels that Shell produces.
  • Shell is also creating a program to allow drivers to support the company's purchase of carbon credits from ecoprojects.
A file photograph showing young pine trees seen from a mature pine forest.
Georgeclerk | Getty Images

The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell recently said the world needs to plant enough trees to essentially create another Amazon rainforest in order to combat climate change. On Monday, the Anglo-Dutch oil major announced plans to support a mass reforestation drive.

Shell will spend $300 million over the next three years on initiatives like planting more than 5 million trees in the Netherlands and Spain, supporting forest regeneration in Australia and potentially engaging in conservation in Malaysia. The company also revealed new investments in electric vehicle battery charging stations and a fuel program to help drivers offset carbon pollution from their tailpipes.

The investments in ecosystems are part of Shell's plan to reduce its net carbon footprint by 2% to 3% over the next three years. By shoring up forests, which absorb carbon dioxide, Shell aims to offset the CO2 emitted when its customers burn the petroleum products and natural gas that it produces — and which still account for the vast majority of its revenue.

Ben van Beurden, Shell CEO
Mary Catherine Wellons | CNBC

In the Netherlands, Shell is partnering with Dutch forestry service Staatsbosbeheer to plant more than 5 million trees over 12 years. In northern Spain, it will work with Land Life Co. on a 300-hectare reforestation project with a goal of planting 300,000 trees by the end of the year.

Shell has also established an 800-hectare forest regeneration project in Queensland, Australia, and is jointly studying projects with the Sarawak state government in Malaysia.

"Our focus on natural ecosystems is one step we are taking today to support the transition towards a low-carbon future," Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said in a statement. "This comes in addition to our existing efforts, from reducing the carbon intensity of oil and gas operations to investments in renewable sources of energy."

Shell has been investing in a range of new businesses, including household battery storage systems and electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as it seeks to get ahead of the transition to clean energy. Shell's director of integrated gas and new energies, Maarten Wetselaar, at a conference in New York last month described the strategy as buying pieces of a puzzle.

On Monday, the company said it will build another 200 rapid charge points for electric vehicles at filling stations in the Netherlands.

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In another green initiative at the pump, Shell will offer drivers the opportunity to support its conservation efforts through fuel purchases.

Beginning this month, sales of Shell's enhanced V-Power gasoline and diesel in the Netherlands will fund the company's purchase of carbon credits from nature-based projects like the Cordillera Azul National Park Project in Peru and the GreenTrees Reforestation Project in the U.S. Dutch motorists who fill up on regular gasoline will be given the option of supporting the credits by tacking 1 cent per liter onto their bill.

Shell already gives business customers the option to offset carbon emissions from their fleets. It will expand the carbon credit program for individual drivers later this year, starting in the U.K.

The initiatives come as Shell and its big integrated oil peers face pressure to mitigate the impacts of climate change. An activist group said it has withdrawn a resolution calling for Shell to slash its investment in fossil fuels, following commitments by the company to set targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.