Ben van Beurden became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Shell with effect from January 1, 2014.
Ben joined Shell in 1983, after graduating with a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.
Ben’s career in Shell spans both Upstream and Downstream activities. He has held a number of operational and commercial roles, including some 10 years in the LNG business, and a variety of positions in Downstream.
In January 2005, Ben became Vice President, Manufacturing Excellence, based in Houston, USA. In this role he was responsible for standards in operational excellence and high-performance initiatives in refining and chemicals manufacturing.
In December 2006, he was appointed Executive Vice President, Chemicals, based in London, UK.
During his tenure in the role, Ben was appointed to the boards of a number of leading industry associations including the International Council of Chemicals Associations and the European Chemical Industry Council.
From January to September 2013, Ben was Downstream Director and had regional responsibility for Europe and Turkey. He has been a member of the Executive Committee since January 2013.
Ben, a Dutch citizen, is married to Stacey and has three daughters and a son. He enjoys reading, running and travelling with his family.
© The Open University
Stories of Change Project
Ben Van Beurden interview
RH: Roger Harrabin = Interviewer
BVB: Ben Van Beurden CEO Shell = Participant
RH: I’m with Ben Van Beurden, CEO of Shell and we’re sitting in his office on the something very high floor in Waterloo with a spectacular view over the river and The Eye and right over London to Wembley and Hampstead. Ben Van Beurden, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by the Open University and BBC. We are asking everybody the same two questions. At the start we’re asking how they got interested in energy, and at the end how optimistic they are — so i’m going to start with you with, how did you get interested in energy?
BVB: I got interested in energy because being a chemical engineer I liked being in the process industry. I’m Dutch, so if you want to join a company with almost unlimited career opportunities in the Netherlands, as a chemical engineer you go and work for Shell. It wasn’t particularly energy that struck me as the most interesting thing when I joined the company, it was more the challenge to work on nice projects, work internationally, work on complex technical and organisational issues, etc., and live in different countries. And in that sense the company has not disappointed.
RH: But now you’ve found yourself in charge of a corporation, a massively influential, global corporation, whose activities have become much more pertinent, controversial, central to international debate than probably you ever dreamed they might be?
BVB: That’s true, but we go back to that moment when I joined the company 32 years ago, at that point in time –
RH: So you were in the energy crisis then, the seventies energy crisis?
BVB: Yes, but also I think at the time people were saying, ‘Listen, why would you go into a sunset industry, the fossil fuel age is over and why don’t you do something more exciting, something that’s much more dynamic, because this is really a dying industry?’ Sunset industry was the word at the time and of course it has been anything but, it has been an incredibly dynamic industry, lots of things happening and changing and what we shouldn’t forget also, an industry that has made a massive difference for our quality of life, but also the quality of life of many billions of others. I think the industry is probably the single largest source of poverty eradication that we have had over the last decade. So it does many, many things that are integral to our quality of life and the future of the globe.
But at the same time, yes, I agree, there is also a rising concern broadly in society and I’m part of society as well, the company is part of society as well, that the rising need for energy also gives rising emissions and rising emissions are in the minds of many, linked, of course, to climate change. And therefore we have two problems to solve: serving the needs of people who deserve and need more energy, doubling the demand for energy probably in the first half of the century and at the same time, we have to seriously tackle CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, and that is a bit of a paradox, but it is something that we can do.
RH: You said that CO2 was in the minds of many linked to climate change, Shell does accept the IPCC findings, I think, doesn’t it?
BVB: Yes for,us the debate of climate change is over. I’m sure that you will find also in our company people who will just said, ‘Hold on, but the science isn’t completely conclusive, etc.,’ but as a company we have embraced the fact that it’s prudent and sensible to work on limiting greenhouse gas emissions and that broadly speaking it would be very, very good if as a planet we can stay within 450, 500 PPM atmospheric concentration levels.
RH: What business people often say is that in their businesses they have to take decisions based on risk, not based on absolute certainty, I guess that’s the decision that you’ve made over climate change and climate science?
BVB: Yeah, that’s another way of looking at it, if you wait for the science to be completely proven you can probably be reasonably certain that it will be too late by the time you know with certainty whether or not there is a correlation, and the actions that we can take now, which to some degree have an aspect of precaution and therefore an aspect of risk management around them, are sensible actions to take. And more over again, Roger, you have to just also look at it from a slightly more philosophical point of view, society wants this to happen for good or bad reasons, we think good reasons by the way, and we are part of society and therefore we have to be responsive as well.
RH: When you’re making a risk decision as a chief executive if somebody brings a proposal to the board and says, you know, ’I want to make such and such an investment,’ what sort of a percentage likelihood do you ask for in terms of a payback on that investment? It needs to be what … presumably not 100% certain to payback, but 90%, 80%, what would you go on?
BVB: It doesn’t quite work like that. I think if you were to sort of correlate back to what it boils down to, you are probably looking at a 80-90%, if not higher percentage or likelihood that it will pay back. What we typically do is we have different types of screening criteria, if it’s an oil product we have oil prices or if it’s a gas project we have gas prices, if it’s a chemicals project we have margin assumptions and you basically take a view whether under the sort of margin or price scenarios that you see in the future will this project pay out? There may be sensitivities on it, what if the oil price was higher, what if it was lower, what if it wouldn’t work as well, what if there would be other issues, delays or whatever, and then you do a risk assessment where you just say, well how many things will have to go wrong before I regret this? And of course you then take a view on the resiliency of the project by taking a look at how easily this project gets derailed or how resilient it is. Now by and large we take projects that we feel are very resilient and therefore under any scenario will return the money back.
RH: Now you mentioned scenarios, I’ve looked at your scenarios diagram here which is going to be a bit difficult for people who are just hearing it on audio, but this is the diagram that you showed to your investors and we have projections here into the future, so we have the projection from the International Energy Agency for 450 parts per million, which shows us increasing our emissions until about 2020 and then really very sharply decreasing them at a 45ᵒ curve there. And I should say that isn’t a high likelihood of getting within the 2 Celsius limit that is widely accepted, that’s something up to a 50% likelihood of getting up to that limit?
BVB: As far as I understand this curve Roger, that’s what we call a normative scenario, so this is what would need to happen if we were to stay within the 450 PPM range.
RH: Yeah, so something less than a 50% chance of staying within PPM, so we could assume if it’s staying with PPM, so with the sort of 80-90% likelihood that you would favour, if it were a business project, then that curve would be even more steeply down than it is now, I think we can fairly assume that?
BVB: I think again, I believe these are normative scenarios, so these scenarios are not in all cases, I should say. So it’s not a prediction or this is not a likelihood –
RH: No, this is a line that says this is what would have to happen a
BVB: Exactly –
RH: And all I’m saying is if we took your criteria for agreeing a commercial project, maybe an 80-90% likelihood of success, this is at something less than 50% likelihood of success, then if we were redrawing that curve, then that curve would be even steeper downward than it is now?
BVB: You could look at it if you were to say, ‘Listen, I want to be even more certain that I will stay within my 450,’ then of course more significant action would be needed than the curve which is here.
RH: But Shell’s scenarios and again, hopefully people will refer to these on the graph, Shell’s scenarios are much, much higher than this, even that the 50% of chance of keeping within 2 Celsius, both of your scenarios are way higher than that, why is that?
BVB: Well, because there’s a difference between the two, the scenario that you referred to which is the green line that people cannot see, is as I said, a normative scenario, so if, for whatever reason the world and policymakers, governments, consumers and everybody else would act perfectly in concert and in unison to manage down to a 450 PPM level –
RH: In other words if climate change were the only factor or the predominant factor here?
BVB: Yes, and if we would have no other constraints, what would CO2 emissions have to look like? This is how they would have to look like. The scenario that we talk about here is how do we think things will evolve given the way we see the world develop, how we see policymakers develop, how we see populations grow and everything else? And then we can see, of course, a range of outcomes and we currently see that the range of outcomes that is most likely is significantly higher than what would need to happen if we were to stay at the 450 PPM limit. So does it mean that we like that or if we want that or if we advocate for it? No, what it does say is that we think the challenge of staying within 450 PPM is very, very high and we’re running out of time.
RH: When you say very high, from your scenarios it looks like the challenge with a good chance of staying within the 2 Celsius, 450 parts per million, is really completely unachievable?
BVB: If you look at the graphs, indeed, it looks as if we’re going to overshoot it and then of course we’re going to make up for it.
RH: OK, tell me a little bit by that, what do you mean by overshooting and what do you mean by making up?
BVB: The policy actions that we would have to take to stay within that 450 PPM scenario, we would have started with these policy measures probably 20 years ago and we didn’t. I think the policy measures that we took have been not good enough or not complete enough and somewhat half-hearted, etc., and as a result of it, emissions have continued to grow; and with it, of course, the frustration of the public and NGOs has continued to grow as well and that’s why we see a lot of energy and a lot of anxiety around this issue at this point in time. But there will, of course, come a point in time that either the world collectively gets its act together, that the political will to act on some of the things that are going to be unpopular is going to be there on the day that it’s going to be needed. Maybe it’s going to need some very, very significant events to warn people that, yes, we have to act now, because otherwise we’ll seriously run out of time. But at the moment we do not see all these policy actions lining up to the point that we can trust the green curve, the 450 PPM curve that’s currently come about. So at the moment I think I’m more pessimistic and I think the urgency therefore is also building, in my view, that we need to act.
RH: So what would need to be done to bring that curve to what you think would have a reasonable chance of staying within 2 Celsius maximum, which I have to say, and I should say here, that another of the people I’ve interviewed is an ocean scientist who says that 450 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere may get us within a 2 Celsius rise or may not, but it certainly will have lasting and virtually irreversible consequences for the oceans and that’s on what we think is a safe level.
BVB: But if you forgive me I will not comment on ocean science and climate science. What would need to happen –
RH: No, sure, but I just think it’s pertinent because the point is this, there’s a lot of uncertainties about whether or not we actually already may have passed a tipping point with the climate, maybe we haven’t, but there’s a possibility that we have?
BVB: So what needs to happen is a number of things and I will bring it back to policies in a moment as well, but fundamentally speaking we have to limit the amount of CO2 that we emit, so the things that we would need to do is as much as possible bring renewables into the picture. Bear in mind renewables may grow very fast, but they start from a very small base, 1-1.5% of the energy currently being supplied comes from renewables. Then renewables supply electricity, electricity in itself is only one-fifth of the total energy demand on this planet, so while we can work and we should work on an awful lot on more renewables and more electrification of the energy system, it is probably not going to be enough, it won’t do the entire trick. So the second thing we have to do is to clean up the fossil fuel part of it, which is going to grow, inevitably, unless we collectively embrace poverty as a planet, which I don’t think is going to happen.
So how do we clean up the carbon part of it? First of all less carbon intensive fuels, so less coal, more natural gas –
RH: Good for Shell?
BVB: No, good for the planet, I would say.
RH: Well and also good for Shell, you’re not in coal –
BVB: We’re not any more in coal, we decided some time ago that coal had writing on the wall and that’s why we went out of it. Then higher energy efficiency measures, significantly higher energy efficiency measures, and then eventually, unavoidably, we have to capture carbon and store it. So these are the core things that would need to happen.
Now what policy measures would policy makers, the world need to adopt and embrace in order for that to happen? First of all put a significant price on carbon, if you put a significant price on carbon, you see people shift to a carbon-leaner system, it will also drive energy efficiency measures. Secondly, stop energy subsidies, a significant part of energy is still being subsidised in key countries. Thirdly move away from biomass, primary biomass to provide energy to more commercial energy sources, because biomass not only has high carbon intensity, it also promotes deforestation and it produces soot which has another effect when it comes to climate change. We then have to adopt more policies to do with smarter and better urban development. We have to work on reforestation and better land use and ultimately we have to have higher standards for efficiency or decarbonisation, in appliances or in mobility. So there’s a whole raft of measures that we can take, but they’re all going to be difficult and to some extent, also not what consumers want, in order to get this achieved effect.
RH: You’ve said a lot of things there, let me just take one at a time. Energy efficiency, everybody agrees that energy efficiency is the best way forward, but governments seem to find it very hard to actually tackle it. We are imposing standards in Europe, in the USA, appliances have got vastly more efficient, cars have got vastly more efficient, whenever governments try to impose energy efficiency on industries, the industries squeal and say they won’t be able to make a profit and they’ll go out of business, they never seem to go out of business, but that’s what they say. And then energy efficiency on homes, the government’s programme in the UK is really languishing and I don’t see much better efforts happening elsewhere. Governments are really failing on energy efficiency.
BVB: Let me tackle your first point first, because there’s probably a last point that I wanted to mention on the previous list, which is that we have to tackle carbon leakage. So in other words if one part of the planet decides to do something sensible it shouldn’t mean that you put business at a disadvantage and basically create a competitive advantage for that part of the planet that didn’t care about this particular measure, so carbon leakage should be tackled. And then I think actually you will find that business is quite OK with it, they may not like that carbon leakage probably comes with regulation and taxation and everything else, but ultimately Roger, no matter how you put it, all the costs, all the extra burden, if you like, that you put on carbon in order to reduce its use will have to be passed on to end consumers because ultimately it has to result in either less use or use of a different energy carrier. And so the fact that companies somehow have to absorb this and won’t be able to pass it on, is of course a fallacy, because then companies wouldn’t exist anymore and there’s also a world image we cannot live.
RH: But that’s assuming things will go on as they have gone on, we’ve seen a revolution recently in cost of solar sales, nobody would have predicted, including in the solar industry, that they could have been so cheap as they are now. So you see then the incumbent players still complaining that solar isn’t very good, solar won’t work and actually solar is electrifying a lot of the poor people in the developing world, and I think we’re moving now, you tried to define a carbon tax which would punish coal and favour gas, for instance, I think we’re moving into a great battle between incumbents, between the incumbent industries in which one is saying, ‘We’re not really the big problem, they’re the big problem.’ And you’ve got the Koch brothers spending $900 million on affecting and trying to influence the legal system and the election system in the USA, what do you think to that, for instance, what do you think to the Koch brothers and what they’re doing?
BVB: Well, I may not comment on the Koch brothers -
RH: But why not? There are two brothers and they’re spending nearly a billion dollars on the American Election and they happen to be very, very wealthy in coal, should two people like that have so much influence on the planet and the future of the planet?
BVB: I think I would rather use that argument around… rather than complain or comment on others’ behaviours, I think it is probably best to look at your own position and behaviours and we have been very, very clear about what we believe in, what we advocate for; we believe we advocate from a platform that is morally, completely sound and that is practically also achievable and that has the right sort of approach to risk for business as well as society.
RH: But what about if you were to move away from coal, what about all the jobs that are in coal and I know there are more solar jobs in the US now than coal, but there are still a lot of jobs in coal and there are a lot of States that are dependent on coal, what are we going to do about that?
BVB: Well that will have to be reordered and re-rationalised –
RH: Hang on a second, you’re talking as if it’s a business, it’s not, it’s a government and there are people involved, how do you do that?
BVB: A hundred years ago people had the same discussion about agriculture and this was at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Of course, we have gone through a tremendous amount of change in the world, when we moved here in the UK also out of a very significant coal position into oil and gas, that just happens, that is the nature of progress, that’s the nature of technological advancement. In fifty, sixty years’ time, I have no doubt or hesitation to say that solar and wind will be the single largest component of the energy system and companies like ourselves better find a way to adapt and adjust and live within that world in which we can still make money, be relevant and be a profitable player with a different business model that is probably more founded on renewables compared to oil and gas.
RH: How are you going to do that as a company because you said the writing is on the wall for companies that don’t change, but how do you change an entire corporation? I think the latest figures were you were investing 33-1 oil and gas against renewables, isn’t it?
BVB: I think you have to put a bit of perspective on it. I go back to a comment and a question you made earlier Roger, of course renewables particularly photovoltaics and to a lesser extent but still also wind, have grown tremendously and of course through unit cost reduction penetration of these primary energy sources has been very, very significant, but still at this point in time after 30 years, they have reached roughly 1% of the total energy system, [recovered] material, if you’re 1% you count for something. And the rate within which that will grow will indeed continue to be very, very high, but it comes from a very, very low base. The energy system will have to double in the next… probably the remainder of the century and again, if you add these two factors up, you will see that there is a continued need for oil and gas. Oil and gas will peak but it won’t peak next year, it won’t peak in five years’ time, it probably will peak by the middle of the century. So that means that we have –
RH: With the resulting effect on the climate, obviously?
BVB: Yes, but I think there is a scenario that we can look at, there is a scenario that we can get to zero emissions. I wish we had been starting 20 years’ ago -
RH: Your scenario is zero emissions by the end of the century, but by then that means we will have to capture lots of the CO2 that is in the atmosphere already and that’s massively, massively expensive?
BVB: But we will have to do it anyway, there is no way if you go to zero emissions by the end of the century, there is no way that we will have a system that doesn’t produce any CO2 anymore, because there will always be by the very nature of how the energy system works and the demands that it needs to serve, there will always need to be a need for fossil fuels to feed into it, because certain parts of the energy system are just impossible to do without fossil fuels, so carbon capture now is –
RH: OK, that’s where I was going to, carbon capture, how much faith do you have in that? I spoke to Lord Brown, former head of BP, he’s a geologist I believe, who said that just simply there aren’t enough places to capture carbon and where we need to capture the carbon is not necessarily where we have the right rocks, so he thought the place for carbon capture and storage globally was probably really rather small and the potential of it had been overestimated.
BVB: I tend to disagree. If you look at the amount of pore space, if you like, that is available for putting CO2 in, we have much more available in the world than we have need for it.
RH: But not in the right place, that’s the problem, not where they want to burn the coal, for instance?
BVB: Maybe not always in the right place, so if you look at a project that we are pursuing here in the UK in Peterhead, we will have to pipe it offshore and put it back into an empty gas field that we have in the North Sea. It would have been better if it was straight underneath the power plant where you capture the CO2 –
RH: Yeah, sure, but there are some countries where there aren’t any suitable rocks at all?
BVB: I think you will find that there is actually quite a lot more, you will probably also find that every country will have to go through its own decarbonisation journey. In some places CCS will make more sense than in others and maybe in some places you will find that we can carry the CO2 elsewhere or you can carry the energy to that place in a different way. We have to look at innovations like how do we transport solar energy from the Middle East across the planet as well? It may sound fanciful in 2015 but I’m sure that by 2040 it’s not fanciful at all, we should be able at that point in time to capture solar energy, convert it into hydrogen and ship the hydrogen in liquid form across the planet. And then of course you have another issue around carbon capture storage, it doesn’t play a role then. So I think ultimately we have to look at this in a holistic, scientific way, it’s a very complex puzzle to get right, that’s why it is difficult to get going on this journey, but the sooner we start on it, the better it will be.
RH: Let me ask you about nuclear, what’s the potential for nuclear, do you think?
BVB: A few percent in the end, I think a lot of the time –
RH: Nuclear revivals been overblown, overhyped?
BVB: I think what you have seen is that nuclear, like many other technology advancements has a public opinion attached to it as well and you don’t know how the public opinion’s going to play out. There was a time in Germany everybody thought nuclear was massively on its way back, until Fukushima happened and then it was dead in its tracks and it’s therefore incredibly difficult to predict how these types of energies will evolve. There was of course a time when everybody was very, very keen about windmills until they started appearing in their backyards and it became a different story, so you don’t know how in the longer run these sentiments may impact development or progress.
RH: When you talk about public opinion, you’re into two activities which are very controversial, one is tar sands and the other one is drilling in the Arctic and Lord Brown who I spoke to the other day said that he didn’t want to be drawn on this, but I did draw him on it, he said, ‘Frankly if I were running Shell, I wouldn’t be drilling in the Arctic, because it’s far too much risk and there are many more easier hydrocarbons to be had and the risk is massive.’
BVB: I think you’re right, the drilling in the Arctic comes with an increased risk profile and that is because the environment is much more fragile than other environments, it is also much more unforgiving in terms of climate, weather, etc., so it is certainly an area with a higher risk profile from these external perspectives. It is also, by the way, the particular reservoir that we are going to explore in, one that is from a technical perspective, relatively easy. So you have to make a judgement, ‘Can I do this in a responsible way?’ that is a bit of personal journey that I had to go through as well and many others associated with the project; we believe that we can responsibly explore for hydrocarbons in Alaska. Whether that means that we can develop this in a way that makes commercial sense remains to be seen. So the first question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Is there enough resource to bother about it?’, second question. Now I understand it’s controversial, not only because it is a sensitive area in which we operate, bear in mind by the way that at the moment 13% of the world’s energy supply comes out of the Arctic, so it’s not as if this is the first time that a company ventures there, but I understand the sensitivity.
RH: Yes, it is a bit different onshore and just offshore to deep offshore.
BVB: Yeah, but still… Secondly of course a lot of people make the link with climate change and that link is not necessarily a technical or a logical one, it’s quite often an emotional one, but to be honest –
RH: Well, to be fair people say, ‘We know we can’t burn all the hydrocarbons we’ve found already,’ I assume you probably agree with that? –
BVB: No, I don’t.
RH: You don’t agree with it, you think we can burn all the hydrocarbons we’ve found?
BVB: No –
RH: So therefore let’s not get diverted, so therefore let’s suppose that that’s the case, why on earth are we drilling in the Arctic for more? A lot of people are just baffled by that.
BVB: If you look at all the hydrocarbons that we have and you would not sort of discriminate between them, yes, of course, but if we were to apply a much more logical approach, one that we will have to stimulate by the way, by putting a real price on carbon, you will, of course, go for natural gas and for light and easy hydrocarbons first and leave the more difficult energy intensive ones or the carbon intensive ones, you would leave them in the ground.
RH: So how does that explain tar sands then, because you’re into tar sands as well?
BVB: Yes, tar sands will be one of the more difficult ones in that sense on that curve and we will have to mitigate what we are doing in tar sands in terms of CO2 emissions. That is, by the way, why we are doing a carbon capture and storage project in our oil sands projects in order to reduce significantly the carbon intensity of that source, basically bringing it back towards a North American average of onshore oil.
RH: But have you faced the possibility that you could down as the CEO of Shell who led them into a calamitous mistake and that history will judge, ‘OK, this was the end of the social licence for Shell when such and such a thing happened in the Arctic,’ there is that possibility, isn’t there?
BVB: If you are in our industry there is always significant risks that you have to worry about and therefore you have to have a very, very strong risk management framework, a very, very good risk management culture and an open and transparent dialogue within the company about what are the risks that you take on. There is no such thing as a risk-free world, so I cannot eliminate the risk altogether, but I can bring it back to something that I think is appropriate and manageable.
RH: OK, let me ask you the question we’ve been asking everyone else, but in this case I’m doing it looking at your scenarios, when I look at that scenario, let’s suppose climate change science is even anything near moderately accurate, that doesn’t strike me, it doesn’t fill me full of optimism, are you optimistic or pessimistic?
BVB: I’m a person with a scientific, technical background and you have to be optimistic if you are in that field.
RH: Well, hang on a second, what’s scientific about being optimistic?
RH: That’s to do with a state of mind, it’s not to do with the state of science! The science here embodied in these lines says pessimism, pessimism, pessimism.
BVB: Ultimately I believe in the capacity of the human race to innovate and to overcome challenges.
RH: But that is not a scientific viewpoint.
BVB: <Pause> Well, it is, because it’s a belief –
RH: It’s a valid viewpoint –
BVB: It is a belief in science, if you like, so it –
RH: It’s having faith, it’s a faith viewpoint, it’s almost like a religious viewpoint, you have faith that science will get us out of the mess that science has inadvertently got us into.
BVB: Yeah, or humankind got us into, we just…
RH: There’s a bit of science involved in drilling for those hydrocarbons, you’ve just spent half an hour trying to persuade me that.
BVB: Yes, but listen, remember this was all about energy provision that we need in order to advance our lifestyle –
RH: Sure, so tell me what your optimism is grounded on, other than a sort of faith that engineers will prevail, which is actually a faith a lot of engineers have, the kind of, ‘OK, we can do it given enough time and money and effort and stuff,’ what is your faith or your belief in optimism, what’s it founded on?
BVB: Well partly it is faith in the human capacity, OK, you bring it back to the optimism of engineers, but I would make it slightly broader; secondly I do believe with all the friction and difficulty that also comes with it, I think we are significantly [ratcheting] up the societal debate about this issue and I think therefore we are also building up potentially a higher capacity for change. Now, what I’m pessimistic about is that significant parts of the public and some very influential people that you earlier referred to as well think that there is a silver bullet to all of this, which I think is actually doing the world a disservice by creating that belief, but I do believe the moment there is a better informed dialogue and a greater will of society and the consumer in general to act, we will act and the opportunities will be there to do so.
RH: But the better informed, just finally, I’m taking from what you said, better informed is an acceptance that we can’t get to where we need to be and that we have to overshoot our CO2 targets and then we have to hope to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere later in the century, that’s what you mean by better informed?
BVB: Well <pause> not quite, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but better informed is that there is no single, simple solution –
RH: No, but you don’t disagree with that scenario that I’ve just painted, that we will overshoot and we will have to suck CO2 -
BVB: The risk of overshoot is... Yeah, absolutely, I think that is the way it is looking at the moment. Now these scenarios are not a point that we are advocating for, this is what we thought when we created these scenarios a bit over two years ago, what were the likely outcomes within a range of potential actions and sentiments developing, etc. I think we are at the moment building up a very significant groundswell that creates more capacity to act. Am I in the short-term an optimist that, for instance, in Paris we will somehow crack the nut and immediately get ourselves onto the one and only right path, no, I don’t think so, in that sense I’m a pessimist or a realist, maybe? But ultimately I think we will get there and maybe this is an article of faith rather than a well informed choice of mind, but anyway, that’s how I feel.
RH: Are you a religious man?
BVB: Yes, I am.
RH: Ben Van Beurden, thanks very much.
BVB: Thank you
<End of Interview>