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Climate-related risks and opportunities identified by Shell over the short, medium and long term

Our target to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society’s progress, requires us to continue enhancing our strategic risk management approach to addressing climate risk. Our energy transition strategy is designed to help us identify and shape how we can assist with decarbonising our customer sectors. This means that our strategy is shaped in response to risks and opportunities identified across the sectors and regions we work in.

There are many teams across Shell involved in this process, to ensure that we make sound strategic decisions.

The process for identifying and assessing climate-related risks and opportunities is set out under “Climate Risk Management”. Through this process, Shell continues to identify climate change and the associated energy transition as a material risk based on the rapidly evolving societal concerns and developments related to climate change and managing GHG emissions. These developments expose Shell to a variety of factors, which could have an impact on demand for our products, our operational costs, supply chains, markets, regulatory environment, licences to operate and litigation. This risk is composed of a combination of complex elements that affect Shell’s overall business value chain. The risks are interrelated, and generally describe a rapidly evolving risk landscape for our asset, product and business portfolio. To achieve our climate ambition, active holistic management of all climate-related risk components is important. The composite risk is broken down into the following sub-components:

  • commercial risk;
  • regulatory risk;
  • societal risk (including litigation risk); and
  • physical risk.

In addition to risk, we also continue to identify opportunities for Shell in the energy transition, from our existing position as a leading global energy provider. These risks and opportunities are described below and are also summarised in the “strategic risks report” section.

Time horizons: short, medium and long

Due to the inherent uncertainty, and the pervasive nature of the risks across our strategy and business model, the climate-related risks and opportunities are monitored across multiple time horizons.

  • Short term (up to three years): we develop detailed financial projections and use them to manage performance and expectations on a three-year cycle. These projections incorporate decarbonisation measures required to meet our short-term targets.
  • Medium term (generally three to 10 years): embedded within our operating plan, with our continued focus on the customer, the investments and portfolio shifts required in the medium term that will fundamentally reshape Shell’s portfolio. At the same time, our existing asset base is expected to provide the cash flow to finance this transition of our revenue in this period.
  • Long term (generally beyond 10 years): it is expected that our portfolio and product mix will look very different, addressing the shift from an asset-based approach to a customer-based business model.

Transition risks

Climate-related commercial risk

  • The transition to a low-carbon economy may lead to lower sales volumes and/or margins due to a general reduction or elimination of demand for oil and gas products, possibly resulting in under-utilised or stranded oil and gas assets and a failure to secure new opportunities.
  • Changing preferences of investors and financial institutions could reduce access to and increase the cost of capital.

Relevant time horizon:

Medium 0 20 40 60 80 100 Medium Long Medium Long

Potential material impacts on the organisation

Lower demand and margins for oil and gas products

Changing customer sentiment towards renewable and sustainable energy products may reduce demand for our oil and gas products. An excess of supply over demand could reduce fossil fuel prices. This could be a factor contributing to additional provisions for our assets and result in lower earnings, cancelled projects and potential impairment of certain assets

Changing preferences of investors and financial institutions

Financial institutions are increasingly aligning their portfolios to a low-carbon and net-zero world, driven by both regulatory and broader stakeholder pressures. A failure to decarbonise the business portfolios in line with investor and lender expectations could have a material adverse effect on our ability to use financing for these types of future projects. This could also adversely affect our potential partners’ ability to finance their portion of costs, either through equity or debt.

Remaining in step with the pace and extent of the energy transition

The energy transition provides us with significant opportunities, as described in the “Transition opportunities” below. If we fail to stay in step with the pace and extent of change or customer and other stakeholders’ demand for low-carbon products, this could adversely affect our reputation and future earnings. If we move much faster than society, we risk investing in technologies, markets or low-carbon products that are unsuccessful, therefore we cannot transition too quickly or we will be trying to sell products that customers do not want. This could also have a material adverse effect on financial results.

Our short-term remuneration targets are not conditioned by society’s progress towards net zero. However, our 2050 net zero target is conditioned by society’s progress as there is significant risk that Shell will not be able to meet its net-zero target if society is not net zero.

Climate-related regulatory risk

The transition to a low-carbon economy will increase the cost of compliance for our assets and/or products, and may include restrictions on the use of hydrocarbons. The lack of net-zero-aligned global and national policies and frameworks increases the uncertainty around this risk.

Relevant time horizon:

Medium 0 20 40 60 80 100 Short Medium Long Short Medium Long

Potential material impacts on the organisation

Increased compliance costs

Some governments have introduced carbon pricing mechanisms, which we believe can be an effective way to reduce GHG emissions across the economy at the lowest overall cost to society.

Shell’s cost of compliance with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and related schemes was around $331 million in 2021, as recognised in Shell’s Consolidated Statement of Income for 2021 (see Note 31 to the “Consolidated Financial Statements”).

Shell’s annual carbon cost exposure is expected to increase over the next decade because of evolving carbon regulations. The forecasted annual cost exposure in 2030 is estimated to be within the range of $1.0-2.5 billion. This estimate is based on a forecast of Shell’s equity share of emissions from operated and non-operated assets (including joint ventures and associates), and real-terms carbon cost estimates which range from around $25 to around $200 per tonne of GHG emissions in 2030. This exposure also takes into account the estimated impact of free allowances as relevant to assets based on their location.

Restrictions on use of hydrocarbons

With around 90% of the global economy now signed up to net-zero commitments as of January 2022, according to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit of the UK, there is an ever-increasing threat that governments set future regulatory frameworks that restrict further exploration and production of hydrocarbons, and bring in controls to limit the use of such products. Failure to replace proved reserves could result in an accelerated decrease of future production, which could have a material adverse effect on our earnings, cash flows and financial condition.

Lack of net-zero-aligned global and national policies and frameworks

The lack of net-zero-aligned global and national policies and frameworks increases the uncertainty around how carbon pricing and other regulatory mechanisms will be implemented in the future. This makes it harder to determine the appropriate assumptions to be taken into account in our financial planning and investment decision processes.

Climate-related societal risk (including litigation risk)

As societal expectations develop around climate change, there is a potential impact on Shell’s licence to operate, reputation, brand and competitive position. This is likely to include class action lawsuits or similar litigation.

Relevant time horizon:

Medium 0 20 40 60 80 100 Short Medium Long Short Medium Long

Potential material impacts on the organisation

Decline in reputation and brand

Societal expectations of businesses are increasing, with a focus on business ethics, quality of products, contribution to society, safety and minimising damage to the environment. There is an increasing focus on the role of the oil and gas sector in the context of climate change and the energy transition. This could negatively affect our brand, reputation and licence to operate, which could limit our ability to deliver our strategy, reduce consumer demand for our branded and non-branded products, harm our ability to secure new resources and contracts, and restrict our ability to access capital markets or attract staff.

Deteriorating relationships with key stakeholders

Failure to decarbonise Shell’s value chain in line with societal, governmental and investor expectations is a material risk to Shell’s reputation as a responsible and market-leading energy company. The impact of this risk includes shareholder divestment, greater regulatory scrutiny and potential asset closure resulting from public interest groups’ protests.

Class action lawsuits and litigation

There is an increasing risk for oil and gas companies from public, private and governmental lawsuits taken to inhibit the exploration, excavation and processing of hydrocarbons as a matter of environmental and societal welfare. Such action may force entities to hand over strategic autonomy in part to regulators, divest from hydrocarbon technologies and pay large compensation packages to the plaintiff.

In some countries, governments, regulators, organisations and individuals have filed lawsuits seeking to hold oil and gas companies liable for costs associated with climate change. While we believe these lawsuits to be without merit, losing could have a material adverse effect on our earnings, cash flows and financial condition.

For example, in May 2021, the District Court in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that, by 2030, Shell must reduce, from its consolidated subsidiaries, its net Scope 1 emissions by 45% and use it best efforts to reduce its net Scope 2 and net Scope 3 emissions by 45%, compared with 2019 levels. In 2019, our Scope 1 emissions from our consolidated subsidiaries were 86 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) (rounded) (financial control basis).

Physical risks

Climate-related physical risk

The potential physical effects of climate change may impact Shell’s assets, operations, supply chains, employees and markets.

Relevant time horizon:

Medium 0 20 40 60 80 100 Medium Long Medium Long

Potential material impacts on the organisation

Mitigation of physical risks, whether or not related to climate change, are considered and embedded in the design and construction of assets. The potential impact of physical changes come from both acute and chronic physical risks.

Acute risks, such as flooding and droughts, wildfires and more severe tropical storms, could potentially impact our operations and supply chains. The frequency of these hazards and impacts is expected to increase in certain high-risk locations. Extreme weather events, whether or not related to climate change, could have a negative impact on earnings. Recent examples in 2021 include the Texas winter storm and Hurricane Ida. These had an impact on our operations and an adverse impact on 2021 earnings of around $200 million and around $400 million respectively.

Chronic risks, such as rising temperatures and rising sea levels, could potentially impact the efficiency of our plants, increase equipment corrosion, decrease gas pipeline capacity, and impact our coastal facilities. The assets at highest risk from these impacts are those in coastal locations across refining, We have performed analyses addressing a range of typical climate change features for a select group of assets. We concluded that currently any adaptation costs for those selected assets are not expected to be significant. We recognise that we need to deepen and widen these analyses for a more comprehensive climate resilience assessment. We continue to monitor this and plan to conduct further analysis on other assets as well as assess long-term physical impacts.

Additionally, the impact of physical climate change on our operations is unlikely to be limited to the boundaries of our assets. The overall impact including how supply chains, resource availability and markets may be affected also needs to be considered, for a holistic assessment of this risk. The risk assessment and mitigation actions are based on our current understanding and we continue to track ongoing research on the subject to update our assessment and actions.

Transition opportunities

Climate-related opportunities

The transition to a low-carbon economy also brings significant opportunities for us to benefit from changing customer demands, given our position as a leading global energy provider.

Relevant time horizon:

Medium 0 20 40 60 80 100 Short Medium Long Short Medium Long

Potential material impacts on the organisation

As the global energy mix changes, our current infrastructure, know-how and global footprint put us in an ideal position to service the changing energy demands of the market. Our research and development (R&D) activities are key to achieving our net-zero emissions target.

As we shift from an asset-based to a customer-focused business model our current key focus areas for seizing this opportunity are:

1. Renewables and Energy Solutions

This encompasses our wind, solar, hydrogen, electric vehicle charging, nature-based solutions, and carbon capture and storage businesses. Electricity generated by wind and solar power plays a direct role in reducing emissions in passenger transport and parts of industry. It can also be used to create hydrogen. We expect hydrogen to present a business opportunity for heavy-duty road freight over a shorter time horizon and within shipping, industry and, possibly, aviation, over a longer time horizon. Hydrogen also has the potential to become a material part of Shell’s business-to-business (B2B) operations, as heavy industry begins to transition away from energy sourced from hydrocarbons.

2. Biofuels

Shell and our joint venture Raízen (Shell interest 44%, not operated by Shell) are together one of the world’s largest blenders and distributors of biofuels. Shell plans to continue to invest in and increase the production of these low-carbon fuels. Our low-carbon fuels projects and operations around the world form part of a wider commitment to provide a range of energy choices for customers. For example, we believe that sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) provide the most effective way of removing emissions within the aviation sector, with wider adoption of SAF enabling us to provide more low-carbon fuels to our customers. Biofuels may also present opportunities in the shipping, road freight and other sectors.

3. Natural gas

Shifting from coal and oil to natural gas is one way for countries to take action as the world moves to a net-zero emissions future. It is a key component of the energy transition. Demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) is expected to grow and we are a leading LNG supplier, with around 40 million tonnes of equity capacity.

4. Transforming refineries into energy and chemicals parks

An important aim of our Powering Progress strategy is to transform refineries into energy and chemicals parks so that we can sell more low-carbon and sustainable products.

greenhouse gas
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liquefied natural gas
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research and development
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