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Interview with Morten Mikkelsen, IPIECA Chair

Newly elected IPIECA Chair, Equinor’s Morten Mikkelsen on the oil and gas industry’s importance to the energy transition, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and combating COVID-19.

Congratulations on being nominated as IPIECA Chair. What excites you most about your new role?

Thank you, I am indeed excited and feel privileged to have the opportunity to serve as Chair of this outstanding organisation. IPIECA’s work in the areas of environmental and social performance through its 45 years history has always been important. However, I believe the role of IPIECA has never been more meaningful than now due to the challenges related to climate change and the role of oil and gas in the energy transition and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There is an urgent need for the world to come together to achieve these goals and ensure a just transition, and the oil and gas industry should be part of the solution together with other industries, governments and society. IPIECA is an excellent place for the oil and gas industry to collaborate on common sustainability issues; the organisation has a strong convening power and a unique position as a focal point for the oil and gas industry to interface with UN organisations and other stakeholders who will be fundamental to accelerating the energy transition and hitting the SDGs by 2030.

To be able to be part of the solution to some of the biggest challenges facing the world is an exciting proposition, and one that I take very seriously.

As you start your tenure as Chair, what are the key upcoming environmental and social issues which IPIECA and its members can make real impacts on?

If we leave out climate-related topics for a moment, it’s clear that environmental and social issues are also of higher significance than before. There seems to be a continuous evolution in the need for proper management of the industry’s impact and performance in these areas. Some examples are the health of the oceans, biodiversity, use of scarce resources, circular economy, human rights, value creation and its distribution and just transition, to mention just a few. All of these come together in the SDGs, and the work IPIECA is currently undertaking with the World Business Council on Sustainable Development on an SDGs roadmap for the oil and gas sector is very timely and I hope it will be a valuable document for our members and stakeholders going forward.

I need to also mention the unique role IPIECA has on oil spill preparedness, especially the role this group has as a custodian of a large number of industry good practices in this area.

The industry is facing unprecedented times, what role do you see IPIECA playing during this challenging period?

Yes, who would have believed back in January that within a few months the world would be completely changed: whole countries in lock down, an almost complete stop in international travel, closed offices and not to forget of course the individuals and families suffering from health effects of the pandemic. In the oil and gas industry we’ve seen a double dip caused by the drop in oil prices. I strongly believe that in times of crisis, the need for collaboration is stronger than ever. IPIECA has already played an important role, together with IOGP in the Health Working Group, and in the Social Responsibility Group, in providing advice and opportunities for sharing and learning on how to handle the COVID-19 challenges the world is facing. The work our member companies are doing, on a global and regional level, to combat the crisis has been remarkable. From setting up hospitals, funding research to providing free fuel for the emergency service, the collective response has been extraordinary and highlights the value of our industry during a time of crisis.

More positively, where do you see upcoming opportunities for the industry?

Oil and gas has for decades been the most important energy source for societies around the world, a prerequisite for wealth and welfare, for the modern societies we are part of today. I believe, in spite of the need to move towards lower emission energy sources, oil and gas will continue to be a large part of the energy mix for many years. However, targeting near zero emissions in the longer term is essential. The capabilities of our industry are highly relevant for developing lower emissions energy solutions, for example through application of carbon capture use and storage and developing hydrogen value chains. In addition to supporting members to adapt to new realities, IPIECA’s unique collection of good practice guidelines, fact sheets, tools and learning material could be used in the alternative energy sectors. It’s good to see that this has already been identified and acted upon.

IPIECA is a member-led organisation. What is it about IPIECA that appeals to a multinational energy company like Equinor and its staff?

IPIECA provides an excellent opportunity for leaders and professionals in Equinor to meet with their peers in other companies, to discuss common challenges and opportunities and develop good solutions for the industry. Participation in IPIECA working groups is an excellent way of building competence. I have often appreciated the opportunity to discuss and get valuable input from people in other member companies. It’s a great network to have. And additionally, the convening power of IPIECA creates great opportunities to work with and get contributions from our key stakeholders.

Your tenure as IPIECA Chair commences with an important update of IPIECA’s four-year strategic plan. At the end of that time what would you like to have seen happen in the industry and IPIECA?

It’s a great question, but so difficult to answer. And more so now, as the crisis we are in will probably bring some long-lasting changes. Have we seen peak oil? Will emissions continue at a lower level and be reduced from there? How long will the COVID-19 pandemic last and what will we see at the other end of the tunnel? How will our ways of working be changed? I hope and believe that the oil and gas industry will still be strong, that it works in alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement and is a strong contributor in society’s work towards achievement of the SDGs and the energy transition. And that IPIECA is the centre of these challenges and opportunities - I believe it couldn’t be more exciting and meaningful. The current and ongoing update of IPIECA’s strategic plan really couldn’t be more timely. I am really looking forward to working with the very competent people in IPIECA’s Secretariat and our diverse and global membership and stakeholders.


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