LONDON - Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell pledged Thursday to become carbon neutral by 2050, matching a commitment by rival BP as climate change looms large over the energy sector.
"Society's expectations have shifted quickly in the debate around climate change," Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said in a statement.
"Shell now needs to go further with our own ambitions, which is why we aim to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner. Society, and our customers, expect nothing less."
The company said it planned to have net zero emissions from the manufacture of all its products by 2050 "at the latest".
It will also seek "to be in step with society's aim to limit the average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change".
Shell will look to reduce what it described as the "net carbon footprint" of its energy products by around 65 percent by 2050, and by 30 percent by 2035.
It will also try and pivot towards serving businesses and sectors that also aim for net-zero emissions by 2050.
The pledge comes as the sector has been ravaged by collapsing oil prices.
World oil prices nosedived Wednesday to near two-decade lows, with WTI crude tumbling under $20 a barrel, as dire warnings about a virus-triggered demand shock overshadowed a deal to cut output.
Prices have crumbled as the virus slams the global economy and its appetite for energy, with the situation compounded by a supply glut resulting from a price war between OPEC cartel kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC rival Russia.
The haemorrhaging in prices has placed severe strain on Shell's finances and forced it to cut investment.
"With the COVID-19 pandemic having a serious impact on people’s health and our economies, these are extraordinary times," van Beurden said ahead of an annual investment briefing later Thursday.
"Yet even at this time of immediate challenge, we must also maintain the focus on the long term," he added in reference to the carbon neutral target.
In February, Shell's main British rival BP also declared its aim to achieve "net zero" carbon emissions by 2050 under new chief executive Bernard Looney but it faced criticism from environmental campaigners over the lack of detail on how it planned to hit the target.
After various climate-related disasters -- and protests that have been inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg -- several countries have announced a climate emergency, which has prompted an increasing number of companies to try to curb carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate change goals.