Access to high quality biodiversity data is a prerequisite for effective assessment and management. The oil and gas industry has been gathering biodiversity data for more than two decades, and is now able to monitor environmental change thanks to advances in technology. Complete understanding of the role the oil and gas industry plays in affecting and managing those changes, as well as in potentially making a positive contribution still remains a challenge and is the subject of considerable study and research.
The United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is UNEP's biodiversity assessment and policy support centre acting as a global integrator for biodiversity information. Its overall goal is to be the internationally recognized centre of excellence for the synthesis, analysis and dissemination of global biodiversity knowledge, providing authoritative, strategic and timely information for conventions, countries, organizations and companies to use in the development and implementation of their policies and decisions. UNEP-WCMC set up a data unit in 1981 to compile information on the world's protected areas, and to be a resource for those requiring such information.
In 2003, a public-private partnership launched the ambitious five-year ‘Proteus’ programme to support the centre’s work by making biodiversity information more freely available to the world. As a first step, Proteus made resources available for the centre to turn its data holdings into a more cohesive set of linked databases. A number of IPIECA/OGP members are members of Proteus. In early 2006, Proteus refocused its work exclusively on rebuilding the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and improving its quality in priority areas. Proteus 2012 is a new five year partnership building on the success since its initiation in 2003, the goal by 2012 is ‘for decision-makers in industry and elsewhere to have access to the best possible data and information on the location and distribution of biodiversity of the highest value, as determined by globally important priority setting framework.
The WDPA is a foundation dataset for conservation activity worldwide, and is central to the high-level risk assessment of private sector activities that have a footprint on the natural world.
Many different groups share the challenge of developing meaningful biodiversity indicators. Governments need to assess their countries’ progress towards global biodiversity loss reduction targets; conservation organizations need to assess the effectiveness of their actions; and companies need to measure and report their performance regarding their operations’ impacts, both negative and positive, on biodiversity. There are many difficulties in meeting this challenge, not least because biodiversity is too complex to be captured by a single indicator, as most corporate reporting purposes require. However, there has been progress towards producing measures that are both meaningful for communication and reporting purposes, and useful in informing operational management decisions.
The Biodiversity Working Group is exploring how to advance in this area, and is looking at ecosystem services as a basis for developing indicators. The group is also developing interim indicators and exploring the risk and opportunity evaluation, as part of its work on the second edition of the IPIECA/ American Petroleum Institute (API) Oil and gas industry guidance on voluntary sustainablity reporting.