What’s a nice environmental group like you doing in a place like this?

Mark Brownstein

As we have since 1995, EDF will be at the United Nations climate talks in Egypt next week, pushing governments for stronger action to meet the urgent goals in the Paris Climate Agreement. Before that, we’ll be making our presence felt at another event — one you’ve likely never heard of, in a place environmentalists are rarely seen.

This year we’re mounting our first significant presence at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC), possibly the largest professional gathering of the global oil and gas sector.

Over 150,000 people from across the industry are expected at the four-day event, which is held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of The United Arab Emirates.

While strong policies are always a centerpiece of our work, EDF also has a long history of principled, effective engagement with energy companies of all kinds, identifying and elevating best practices so that they become standard practices.

What makes ADIPEC a new frontier for us is the national oil and gas companies (NOCs) that are heavily represented here.

An essential part of the climate conversation

These are very different from the companies whose names you know. The seven top “supermajors” — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Eni, ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies — are all publicly-traded companies, all headquartered in the United States or Europe. And that’s where most of the talk about climate and the energy transition has been centered.

By contrast, ADIPEC attendees are not the people we meet in Washington or Brussels — or Houston, for that matter. Nearly three-quarters will be coming from Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East.

That’s important, because NOCs from these regions produce fully half of the world’s oil and gas today, and hold 67% of global reserves. Some are known for wealth, but citizens of their governments are often among the most likely to suffer the effects of a warming planet, with the fewest resources to cope. That makes them an essential part of the conversation.

NOCs are rarely subject to the shareholder and public pressure that have been instrumental in driving progress with the publicly traded supermajors. With a few exceptions they have lagged on efforts to address greenhouse pollution or rethinking business models to suit the needs of a decarbonizing marketplace. We think the conversation is long overdue.

Creating new openings to engage in real solutions

Once you push past the lobbyists and public relations gatekeepers, we’ve found time and again that there are people throughout the industry who do, in fact, understand the climate threat as well as anyone. And we expect that will be true at ADIPEC, too.

We don’t expect to turn these companies into climate warriors. Rather, we want to create new openings for them to engage in real solutions by expanding their thinking about crucial opportunities like methane, and potential problems with an emerging hydrogen economy that could make the climate crisis worse if it is not managed carefully.

Case in point: Oil and gas companies worldwide currently waste billions and billions of dollars of methane every year through leaks, flaring and other emissions. That’s gas we’re already taking out of the ground that could be used to meet the immediate energy needs in Europe and elsewhere.

Concerted global action using existing technologies could cut methane pollution in half by 2030, slowing the rate of warming by as much as 30%. The International Energy Agency says the industry could cut its methane emissions 75% using technologies available today — much of that at no net cost.

Together, EDF and our subsidiary MethaneSAT are appearing on almost 20 panels at ADIPEC. We will be having hundreds of conversations in the hallways. At our booth on the tradeshow floor, we will be showing off an early version of the MethaneSAT data product for the first time, giving companies a fresh sense of the revolution in robust and fully transparent emissions data that is coming their way.

In the developing world, oil and gas are seen as a critical path to social and economic improvement for countries struggling with poverty. EDF takes these aspirations seriously. The companies that sovereign governments in these countries have entrusted to with the development of their national energy resources have an important place in an equitable energy transition.

That is why we are excited to be engaging with these stakeholders in this new and unfamiliar place. We hope it’s the start of something big.

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