Ipieca: advancing climate action in the oil and gas sector
Ipieca is the global oil and gas association dedicated to advancing environmental and social performance across the energy transition. Ipieca’s climate director Ewan McKenzie discusses with Gas Pathways how the group is advancing climate action, environmental responsibility and social performance across oil, gas and renewables activities.By Mike Weber
Q: Can you briefly outline what are the conditions of Ipieca membership and how can prospective new members join?
A: Last year we launched the Ipieca Principles as a new condition of membership. All current members have agreed to them, and all new or prospective members have to support them.
There are eight principles, grouped around Ipieca’s strategic pillars of climate, nature, people and sustainability, with two principles in each area. The first principle under each pillar provides support for a United Nations convention or initiative, strengthening Ipieca's long-standing relationship and collaboration with the UN. The second principle aims to advance the environmental and social performance of members’ operations. Positioning the principles this way highlights that good operational practice can and does feed into achieving the goals of these UN conventions.
The UN conventions which the principles align our members around are the Paris Agreement, the UN Convention for Biological Diversity, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Wherever a company is on its sustainability journey, the principles have something to offer. They can act as a check in to make sure your company is on track, or provide new ideas that can take an organisation to the next level of sustainability performance.
Q: What are some of the benefits for oil and gas companies of joining Ipieca?
The key reason, without a doubt, is the opportunity to play a part in leading the industry through a sustainable energy transition. Being an Ipieca member gives companies the chance to shape the industry response to some of the biggest challenges facing the world, such as climate change, protecting and enhancing nature, respecting human rights and delivering the SDGs.
When an organisation joins Ipieca they join a group of companies committed to the highest sustainability standards and a network of over 1,000 subject matter experts from across our member companies. Being able to work together with peers, as well as our external stakeholders, on internationally recognized good practice which is then freely shared to raise standards across the whole sector is something which really motivates our members.
It's not all about producing good practice and tools though. One of the big draws for our members is the platform that Ipieca offers for members to discuss current and emerging sustainability issues. We provide a space where member company representatives can share knowledge on tackling these challenges. Uniquely, we also provide a platform for members to come together around the interconnected issues of climate, nature, people and sustainability – Ipieca is the only oil and gas association working on all these issues in a holistic way.
Another way Ipieca creates value is through our unique UN relationship. We are the UN-industry interface and have observer status and work with a whole range of UN bodies, for example, the UN Environment Programme, the UNFCCC, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Human Rights Office and the International Maritime Organization, to mention just a few. These strong relationships are enabled in no small measure due to our non-lobby status and produce value for all parties. For members, we provide a forum for partnering with the UN to support the work of UN organisations, share UN insights, enable access to UN events and provide engagement opportunities with senior UN figures. For the UN, a real value add is that Ipieca can provide detailed technical expertise and input from a significant proportion of the industry on their initiatives, as well as driving awareness and support for them.
Q: For smaller developers that are limited in both human and financial resources, why should they join Ipieca?
A: Well firstly, Ipieca has something to offer to every company, no matter what stage you are at on your sustainability journey – we welcome any company which is serious about sustainability.
Secondly, small companies will benefit from being part of Ipieca membership, learning from world leading sustainability experts and contributing to accelerating a just transition.
And thirdly, they get access to Ipieca’s convening power, which not only connects them with other industry members but also key stakeholders from across many different sectors.
Of course, you don’t have to be an Ipieca member to support our work to advance environmental and social performance across the energy transition. Any company can align with the Ipieca Principles, and in fact they are designed to inspire industry-wide action. To support this, we have created an Ipieca Principles toolkit which provides real-life examples and supporting Ipieca guidance to enable companies to operationalise the principles.
Q: Tell us a little about the other organisations you are collaborating with and how you are working together to achieve climate objectives?
A: Collaboration is at the heart of what Ipieca does. We convene a large part of the oil and gas industry with external stakeholders from UN, NGO, civil society and academic organisations.
Our original stakeholder is the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Ipieca was established in 1974 after the formation of UNEP to be the UN-oil and gas interface. In the 50 years since then, we’ve gone on to form impactful partnerships with UN bodies across the areas of climate, nature, people and sustainability.
In the climate space we have observer status with the UNFCCC, which organises the climate COPs, and the IPCC which produces the climate science reports which help form the basis of negotiations at COP events. We provide industry technical feedback and inputs to pre-COP workshops when requested, as well as attending COP events, where we organise or contribute to events and workshop focused on cross sector collaboration to support the COP objectives and help scale up climate action.
Looking at some collaboration beyond the UN world, we worked with the World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR) to produce our Flaring management guidance, which supports oil and gas companies, governments and regulators to work together to reduce or eliminate flaring and instead use the gas as an additional energy resource to drive sustainable development.
A recent flagship guidance was the SDG Roadmap, developed in partnership with WBCSD. It provides over 90 actions, set across climate, nature and people impact pathways, which can accelerate the realisation of ten priority SDGs, where the industry can make the most impact.
We’re currently working with API on updating our guidance for Scope 3 emissions methodology and with OGCI, IOGP and Carbon Limits on a methane detection and quantification guidance and tool.
Q: What are the biggest gaps the oil and gas industry needs to address in implementation of the Paris Agreement and how can the sector work to bridge these gaps?
A: It’s important to note that all countries’ pathways to a lower-carbon future will be different depending on their starting points, infrastructure and resources in place, and sustainable development priorities, and likewise each company’s pathway will be different as they support governments to achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions.
While there is no set route through the energy transition, many Ipieca members have made net-zero emissions commitments and we have seen some commonalities across their energy transition pathways.
These include focusing on reducing operational emissions, through energy efficiency, flare reduction and managing methane emissions. Methane is an ideal target for climate change mitigation strategies; it has an atmospheric lifetime of around ten years, therefore reducing methane emissions brings more immediate benefits from a climate perspective.
Ipieca members are also helping their consumers reduce their emissions, by developing low-carbon mobility technologies such as electric vehicle charging solutions, biofuels, ammonia and hydrogen fuel-cells.
Members are increasingly decarbonising their own operations by deploying renewable energy sources as well as investing in large-scale renewables such as wind and solar, with Ipieca members aiming to achieve 325GW of renewables capacity by 2050. To respond to this, Ipieca recently started to work on alternative energies, with an initial focus on wind, solar and biofuels.
One of the key technologies that can enable large-scale, cost-effective mitigation of CO2 within the industry and across other sectors is carbon capture and storage (CCS). Of the 26 large-scale CCS projects in operation in 2020, 24 are related to the oil and gas sector. Many of these projects are developed through industry-government collaboration.
Q: Can you share with us a little about how Ipieca has been working with key stakeholders to implement and deliver on commitments made at COP27 conference in Egypt in November?
A: COP27 in Egypt delivered an historic agreement to provide loss and damage funding for vulnerable countries hit by floods, droughts and extreme weather events. While this agreement garnered most of the attention, the Sharm el Sheikh implementation plan also addresses other important issues, where our sector can contribute, including:
•Enhancing ambition and implementation
•Science and urgency
•Pathways to a just transition
A key part of what we do around COP events is to feed the outcomes into our workstreams and make sure that the guidance and tools we produce help to achieve these. Since COP27 wrapped, we continued our work in support of a net-zero future which also enhances people’s lives and cares for nature, developing and sharing guidance related to all the above elements of the Sharm el Sheik implementation plan.
Q: What role will Ipieca look to play at COP28 in December in the United Arab Emirates? What are some of Ipieca goals and breakthroughs it is looking to achieve at the climate conference?
A: Right now I am in the UAE as part of an Ipieca delegation meeting with the COP28 Presidency to understand their goals for the event and how Ipieca can support them. So Ipieca’s involvement in COP28 has already begun.
This year’s COP event is being referred to as the Global Stocktake COP, as COP28 will finalise the first ever Global Stocktake of the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which aims to assess the world’s collective progress towards meeting the Paris Agreement. Ipieca has provided input to the technical dialogue component of the Global Stocktake. The technical dialogue brings together Parties to the Paris Agreement with technical experts to explore how gaps in the implementation of the Paris Agreement can be bridged, with a focus on technology, emissions mitigation, capacity building and cross-sector collaboration.
We also regularly support pre-COP technical workshops and events. These workshops are critical to the success of COP events. They bring together leading climate experts from around the globe and across all sectors to explore the key issues that will be under discussion, providing the scientific and technical knowledge the negotiators at COP events need to make informed, ambitious policy decisions to support the realisation of the Paris Agreement.
When COP28 comes around, Ipieca will be on site as official observers, as we have been for every climate COP event since the first COP was held in 1995 in Berlin. We’ll host and participate in events aimed to support the necessary collaboration to achieve the objectives of the event and as always, when it is finished, we’ll work with our members and stakeholders to support the on the ground implementation of the pledges and decisions made.
Q: Next year will mark 50 years since Ipieca was founded at the request of the United Nations Environment Programme. Just how far has the oil and gas sector come in this time period in the quest to curb emissions?
A: During our 50 years, Ipieca members have always been focused on providing the world with the affordable and reliable energy that it needs, doing so with ever decreasing emissions and in a way that enhances people’s lives and cares for nature.
A couple of things come to mind when thinking about Ipieca members’ progress. The first is the number of net-zero emissions commitments and plans. We now have 34 member companies who have made net-zero commitments. This number has really taken off over the last few years. The other is the fact that Ipieca membership has continued to grow, and rapidly, demonstrating the importance our sector places on the issues covered by Ipieca: climate action, environmental responsibility, social performance and sustainability. Tackling these challenges will require above all, unprecedented levels of collaboration. Ipieca provides a unique forum enabling wide ranging collaboration to address these challenges.
Last but not least, Ipieca as an association has adapted over the years to the evolving global context and challenges, seen in our most recent strategy, which places a just energy transition at the heart of what we do.