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What To Watch: Issue #7

July 2, 2019

While we all have our heads down trying to figure out how to permit and operate our projects effectively, the international development sector is being transformed by a decarbonization agenda that is defining the future of global energy. This agenda will affect your stakeholders’ expectations of your company.

Both of these things are true:

  1. Developing nations are bringing their citizens out of poverty at an unprecedented rate and scale; a significant factor in the pace of this growth is access to energy resources, which are dominated by fossil fuels.
  2. Organizations targeted with alleviating global poverty are increasingly committing to a fossil-free path forward.

The problem:

It doesn’t matter that all of your project interests are in Alberta or Pennsylvania. When organizations like the United Nations or the World Bank make commitments to fossil-free energy infrastructure, the international headlines reinforce this global narrative: We can alleviate international poverty without fossil fuels.

It is a particular passion of mine that energy at scale provides a critical foundation for economic development in emerging economies. We know that 84 percent of global energy comes from fossils.  We know that nearly 100 percent of new energy demand is coming from emerging economies. We know that emerging economies need reliable affordable power, transportation fuels, and economic building blocks like industrial heat and fertilizers — all requiring oil and gas at some level of pragmatic implementation. We also know that coal-fired power is growing in emerging economies because it is available and affordable.

The problem is that all of that takes at least a paragraph — and, more likely, 45 minutes — to explain. In the meantime, the United Nations’ program to address Sustainable Development Goal #7, Sustainable Energy for All, has decarbonization integrated into every component of its work. For example, several multilateral development banks (MDB) and the International Development Finance Club (IDFC) developed the MDB-IDFC Common Principles for Climate Mitigation Finance Tracking, which influences grant and loan allocation.

It matters because:

The most likely common ground that the North American natural gas sector can develop with fossil opponents is the shared desire to create prosperity globally. Global development moves and headlines are helping drive the quickly rising narrative that our world will imminently not require fossils. To understand this worldview, we need to understand how both powerful ($!) and pervasive it is.

The critical mistake companies are making:

Focusing on fighting the climate-dominant narrative, instead of articulating the role they and their industry will play to build a world fighting to eliminate global poverty and embrace resiliency and decarbonization.

Seize the day. Successful companies will:

  • Understand ESG is more than local giving. The energy and environment conversation is on some level always about climate and the future of energy. Your ESG strategy must contemplate your company’s role in both.
  • Look for an authentic partnership. So now you are thinking about climate, decarbonization, and hopefully even global prosperity. What are the real opportunities for your company to invest and engage — surprisingly, meaningfully?

Have you seen a connection between global energy expectations and your business? Is your company engaging in meaningful prosperity creation locally, or internationally? Hit reply, and let me know about it.

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