Shell CEO Says It's 'Entirely Legitimate' to Invest in Oil and Gas After Being Named Among 20 Firms Behind Third of All Carbon Emissions

The chief executive of Shell said the company will not bow down to pressure from environmental advocates by abandoning its investment in fossil fuels over climate change fears, as there is still an opportunity to make money in the forthcoming years.

Speaking to Reuters, Ben van Beurden said the company has "no choice" but to invest in long-term gas and oil projects, dismissing what he described as the "demonization" and "unjustified" concerns about the energy company's future business model.

"Despite what a lot of activists say, it is entirely legitimate to invest in oil and gas because the world demands it," van Beurden said.

Van Beurden said that he fears shareholders could pull out of the company if they don't soon shift to greener sources of energy. According to Reuters, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from Shell's operations rose by 2.5 percent between 2017 and 2018, with the company hoping to get the go-ahead on a further 35 new oil and gas projects by 2025.

The 61-year-old said it is still vital that Shell and other energy giants continue to ensure worldwide demands for gas and oil are met as a lack of investment could see a major rise in prices.

"One of the bigger risks is not so much that we will become dinosaurs because we are still investing in oil and gas when there is no need for it anymore," Van Beurden said. "A bigger risk is prematurely turning your back on oil and gas."

Van Beurden made a similar claim while speaking to the Financial Times in September.

He described how abandoning fossil fuels too early would be something that Shell "could not live with" and would be his "single biggest regret"—even above the potential catastrophic damage to the planet the company could help further inflict with their emissions.

Shell previously announced that it intends to half its greenhouse emissions by 2050, but oil and gas look set to remain the bulk of revenue and profits for years to come.

The Financial Times noted that Van Beurden has not set a timetable for when he wants to ensure the company's revenue from renewable energy such as solar and wind are more in line with oil and gas, noting they are still well away from generating the same sort of returns on investment.

"We can take a $1 billion or $2 billion hit, in getting some key business choices wrong, but we can't do it every year," van Beurden added.

Earlier this month, a report by The Guardian named Shell as one of the 20 fossil fuel firms who are responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions since 1965.

The company was ranked seventh out of the state and investor-owned firms who helped contribute to 480 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in the modern era.

The state-owned Saudi Aramco was ranked the number one polluter after being responsible for 4.38 percent of the global total just by itself.

"The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price—in the form of a degraded planet—so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits," leading climate change scientist Michael Mann told The Guardian.

"It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen."

Ben van Beurden
Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden speaks at a full year results conference in London on January 31, 2019 TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty