Oil and gas investor pressure is building, with 20 climate shareholder resolutions up for review at annual meetings held by publicly-traded energy companies this month. While the climate filings cover a range of issues, improved methane management is in the mix.
Last year was a breakout year for methane investor activism. ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy subsidiary business announced a reduction plan in response to a 2017 methane disclosure resolution, with onlookers expecting more change to follow this year from others. Meanwhile, a growing global network representing 36 investors and $4.2 trillion in managed assets continue to call on companies for methane reductions.
In the second-part of our interview series with Jamie Bonham, Manager of Corporate Engagement at NEI, we talk about how influential Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) shareholder resolutions, such as methane, have been in the past. We also discuss what prompts investors to file resolutions, and the potential impact on companies.
Close your eyes and think about innovation. How many of you thought about a widget – a robot, a self-driving vehicle, a sensor? I’m guessing almost all of you. How many of you thought about regulations, contracts and financing? Maybe a few at most. This is the exercise that former Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, and David Cash, former Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, prompted at the launch of the WBUR Environmental Reporting Initiative.
With upcoming annual meetings full of shareholder resolutions calling on companies to set greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, EDF released "Taking Aim", a new paper explaining why methane targets are the next frontier for the oil and gas industry and establishing five keys for strong targets. The paper explains how companies that set targets are more likely to be successful when it comes to securing methane emission reductions. Setting targets also demonstrates to investors that corporate decision makers understand methane risk management is critical to competing in an ever-cleaner energy market.
With the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) framework also highlighting the importance of targets, “Taking Aim” provides some initial guidelines that can help frame what an ambitious, leading target looks like for oil and gas industry methane.
A new investment tool from Credit Suisse aims to bolster investment in the recovery of global fish populations.
Namrita Kapur, Managing Director of EDF+Business
Environmental Defense Fund Q&A with Namrita Kapur, Managing Director at EDF+Business and Ian Murdock, Risk and Finance Data Analyst at Credit Suisse
Overfishing endangers ocean ecosystems and the billions of people who rely on seafood for their food and livelihood. Without sustainable management, our fisheries face dramatic declines – and we face a food crisis. To reverse this global challenge, EDF has engaged in global partnerships to find solutions for thriving oceans that support more fish, food and prosperity. Most recently, EDF teamed up with Credit Suisse to find sustainable finance solutions to address the systemic challenge of reinvesting in sustainable fisheries. Namrita Kapur sat down with Ian Murdock to discuss this innovative new tool.
McDonald’s – the world’s largest restaurant company – recently announced new climate goals, which were quickly followed by many comments like this one, from Axios:
"These are concrete targets, but they’re not as of yet backed up with specific plans of how to get there."
Axios is right. These are concrete targets (and they’ve been approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative). Here are the details: by 2030, McDonald’s is pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their restaurants and offices by 36 percent, and reduce their emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across their supply chain by 31 percent. The company estimates these reductions will prevent 150 million metric tons of C02 equivalents (CO2e) from being released into the atmosphere. That’s huge – it’s the equivalent of removing 32 million cars from the road for one year.
But I want to challenge Axios in saying that the company has “no specific plans" to get there.
The oil and gas industry has planted its sights on playing a competitive role in the energy mix of the future. However, oil and gas extraction, transport and use create serious environmental and safety risks when leaked, releasing 8-10 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere each year in the US alone.
Fortunately, addressing this problem also offers a tremendous opportunity: a 45% reduction by 2025 would have the same benefit as shutting down one-third of world’s coal fired power plants. That’s why EDF set out on a groundbreaking global technology challenge to incentivize new solutions to fix this problem.
The super emitter problem
Methane is invisible and odorless, making leaks hard to detect. EDF-led studies have shown that methane pollution is widespread, pouring out from “super emitters” – the large, enigmatic sources responsible for a big portion of industry’s methane pollution. These super-emitting sources are nearly impossible to predict and can happen anywhere, anytime as a result of malfunctioning equipment that goes unattended or mistakes in the field.
Two years ago I had my first conversation with Stefan Karlsson, the Sustainability Compliance Manager for IKEA Purchasing Service (China) Co., Ltd. We talked about how IKEA was rethinking its business operations in order to green its global supply chain – and as the world’s largest go-to for affordable furniture – you can imagine how big a job that is. Right away, I could tell Stefan, and IKEA, was on to something big: encouraging hundreds of their suppliers to drive innovation and promote sustainability.
A goal, an opportunity and a partnership
IKEA isn’t unique in that it strives to provide affordable furniture. However, it is unique in that it strives to make products in ways that are good for people and the planet. That’s why in 2016, the company set a goal of encouraging its direct suppliers to become 20 percent more energy efficient by August 2017. As part of this target, IKEA initiated the Coal Removal Project – reducing coal use as a direct source from the energy portfolios of over 300 local supplier factories in China.
While a growing number of global oil and gas companies step up to reduce methane emissions, many operators in Canada have hesitated to take concrete action, perhaps waiting instead for federal and provincial regulations to address the issue.
EDF’s Sean Wright recently sat down with Jamie Bonham, Manager of Corporate Engagement at NEI, a Canadian investment firm based in Toronto with $6 billion in assets under management. Bonham is concerned many Canadian operators do not understand the full scope of their oil and gas methane problem, but says there is considerable opportunity for Canadian companies to exert leadership.
The demand for corporate transparency is here to stay. Just last year, 390 investors representing more than $22 trillion assets signed a letter in support of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, advocating for a unified set of recommendations for corporate climate disclosure. So as financial markets increasingly recognize Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risks, and increasingly embrace ESG strategies, oil and gas companies failing to report on environmental risks, like methane emissions, will be at a disadvantage.
Yet despite the reputational and financial risks posed by methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, over 40 percent of oil and gas companies analyzed in a new EDF report fail to report even basic information on methane management. The report finds that the quality and quantity of methane risk management reporting has increased amongst nearly 60 percent of companies analyzed. But the overall improvement has not been enough.
President Trump announced the outline of his long awaited infrastructure plan during his first State of the Union address Tuesday night. While broad bipartisan support exists for addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs, how to fund the $1.5 trillion plan continues to be a significant point of contention.
The president’s remarks confirmed rumors that have swirled for weeks about plans for leveraging federal dollars to catalyze public and private investment, and close critical infrastructure funding gaps. How these approaches materialize in a final plan is anyone’s guess, but after experiencing $306.2 billion in natural disaster-related damages in 2017, one thing remains abundantly clear, an infrastructure plan that fails to integrate and prioritize resilience and sustainability will lock the U.S. into a costly business-as-usual development pathway that makes us ill prepared for a changing climate. Unfortunately, the risks posed by rising sea levels and extreme storms are only the tip of the iceberg. A new report from Moody’s warns cities and states of potential credit downgrades from failing to develop climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.
The U.S. faces a $2 trillion infrastructure funding gap through 2025. Failing to close this gap has serious economic consequences including losses to GDP, business sales, and jobs. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates failing to close the infrastructure investment gap costs US families $3,400 in disposable income per year. Filling this gap will not only require active partnership and collaboration between the public and private sectors, but also a commitment to inform our infrastructure investment decisions with the latest available science and technology. Infrastructure that integrates principles of sustainability and resilience fits that bill.