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Shell Chief Executive Receives 40% Pay Cut Due To Covid-19 Pandemic

Royal Dutch Shell has cut the pay of its chief executive by more than 40% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic which dramatically dropped the demand for oil in the world; 2020 is regarded as the year with the steepest decline in demand for oil. Shell reported a loss of about $20 billion for 2020 due to this lack of demand.

Ben Van Beurden, the CEO, took a cut of around $5.8 million in 2020, and the year before he received a cut of around $10 million, marking the second consecutive year in which the chief executive received a major pay cut. His salary was completely halved back in 2019.

Van Beurden also was reportedly forced to cut Shell’s dividend for the first time since World War 2. It’s expected that the company will be cutting 7,000-9,000 staff members across their global businesses as well. These cuts are also the result of the massive financial loss the company is experiencing due to a lack of need for oil and other fossil fuels, as well as the growing need to live a greener lifestyle.

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Shell also announced that its chairman, Chad Holliday, will be stepping down after six years with the company. He will be replaced by the former BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie, who also spent six years at his former company. His time with BHP was defined by his coworkers as an “ambitious turnaround in which we were able to streamline operations.”

“Right now it’s a pivotal time for the industry and wider society. I plan to profitably accelerate Shell’s transition into a net zero emissions energy business that would continue to generate substantial value for shareholders, customers and communities alike,” Mackenzie explained. Van Beurden also recently claimed that he was looking forward to working closely with Mackenzie.

“We are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic with a clear and distinct strategy that I believe will enable us to seize the opportunities presented by the energy transition. I cannot think of anyone better than Andrew to take this role,” he said.

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Oil prices have dropped dramatically since March of last year when the pandemic began. This was initially due to traders adjusting their prospects to cope with the lower demand. Shell cut its spending which lowered its pricing and future pricing as well.

Van Beurden refused to take an annual bonus last year, however, he still received one of about $3.7 million due to his long-term incentive plan which initially gave him a bonus of $8 million before his major pay cut back in 2019.

Oil prices have begun recovering in the early parts of 2021 due to dramatic cuts in production, as well as a rollout of multiple vaccine programs throughout the world that is helping stimulate the economy and return the world to a greater sense of normalcy.

Oil and Gas Plant

How Oil and Gas Companies are Grappling with Climate Change

Climate change presents a major problem for nearly every industry in the world, but the oil and gas industry is perhaps the most directly affected one. As the burning of fossil fuels is the most significant contributor to the greenhouse gas effect, oil and gas companies remain the target of blame for the crisis around the world. As such, these companies are faced with the challenge of reconciling their responsibility to the planet with their obligation to generate profits. Although the science on climate change and the activities that contribute to it has been settled for a long time, it has only been in the past few years that oil and gas companies have come to an agreement about the nature and urgency of the crisis. How they are adapting to a near-global consensus about the need to reduce carbon emissions, however, is more disparate, with some companies investing in alternative energy solutions and others focusing on improving the efficiency of oil and gas consumption.

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Perhaps the most striking example of the oil and gas industry’s involvement in shaping the future of energy consumption is the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which was formed by many of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, and whose members include BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, and Chevron, to name just a few. The initiative’s stated goal is to “deliver solutions for a sustainable low-emissions future,” and their member companies are “dedicated to the ambition of the Paris Agreement to progress to net zero emissions in the second half of this century.” The initiative’s plan for reaching this goal includes three components: reducing the energy value chain footprint, accelerating low-carbon solutions, and embracing a circular carbon model.

The first objective refers to reducing the amount of methane released into the atmosphere during each stage of the process of energy production, from transport and distribution to usage by final customers. Of all of the greenhouse gases, methane traps the most amount of heat in the atmosphere, making its release a primary concern for oil and gas companies looking to reduce their impact on climate change. The second objective refers to optimizing the efficiency of fossil fuel use by investing in technologies that are more energy efficient and researching new low-emissions pathways for the mid and long-term. The last objective refers to capturing carbon emissions and storing them safely or using carbon in products, and then neutralizing any remaining carbon.

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While the Oil and Gas Initiative is certainly a step in the right direction, the organization has plenty of room for improvement. Though many of the world’s major players in the oil and gas space are represented by the initiative, the organization accounts for only 30% of the world’s oil and gas production. And the initiative is mostly focused on making existing fossil fuel consumption methods more efficient rather than switching over to renewable energy platforms, like wind and solar, though they consider renewable energy as a necessary component of the future of energy production. 

Many critics, however, suggest that the approach taken by oil and gas companies is inadequate, and insist that the transition to the energy economy of the future necessitates intervention from governments around the world. These critics, which include organizations like the Climate Action Network, blame the oil and gas industry for suppressing research about the effects of carbon emissions, and claim that major political change is necessary, as meaningful change will not come from oil and gas companies acting alone. The Climate Action Network, as well as other environmental organizations around the world, call for policies like a carbon tax, government investment in renewable energy, and an elimination of subsidies on oil and gas. That being said, global demand for energy, and specifically fossil fuels, is higher now than it’s ever been, and even the most ambitious plans for reducing carbon emissions still recognize that fossil fuel use must continue in some capacity for decades to come.