Bowing to pressure from shareholders and the Paris international climate accord, Royal Dutch Shell pledged to increase its investment in renewable fuels and to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2050.
Shell and other big oil companies have moved only sporadically over the last decade toward greater production of wind and solar energy. Now there are signs of a commitment to take climate change more seriously.
In comments to investors, Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive, said that from 2018 to 2020, the company’s new-energies division would spend up to $2 billion a year on renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydrogen power and on electric-car charging stations.
Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, said it aimed to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent by 2035 and by half by 2050. The growing global dependence on natural gas, as a replacement for coal, should help Shell meet its goals since it has made a big investment in producing and trading gas.
Environmentalists gave the Shell pledge generally positive reviews, but noted that quicker progress would be needed to protect the climate.
Since the adoption of the 2015 Paris accord, in which most of the countries in the world agreed to set goals to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, international oil companies have begun to make more public pledges to reduce their carbon releases.
Several European oil companies have acknowledged that they would have to leave some carbon resources in the ground. Statoil, the Norwegian oil company, has begun a major shift toward investing in wind power. This month, Shell and seven other oil companies pledged to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from leaky pipes and wells.
Shell is working with BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen to install fast-charging stations on Europe’s highways to make electric cars capable of longer trips. Shell has projected that the expansion of the global electric-car fleet over the next decade will significantly slash gasoline demand.
Perhaps Shell’s most ambitious project is its Quest carbon capture and storage project in Canada, which recovers carbon dioxide emissions from a major oil-sands project and then compresses it into a liquid for storage underground. The project is one of only a few in the world.
While some energy experts say carbon capture could be a useful tool to control climate change, skeptics say the technology is too expensive to be deployed broadly enough to make a real difference.Generally, European oil companies have moved faster on climate efforts than their American counterparts, partly because there is a broader political consensus on the problem on the Continent. Norway, though a major oil producer, is considering removing oil investments from the holdings of its sovereign wealth fund.
Mr. van Beurden said the company would measure the accomplishments of the carbon-reduction effort in reports every five years.
Shell’s carbon pledge followed a shareholder resolution, backed by the company, that called on Shell to embrace targets to improve its performance to control climate change.