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ESG Investor wrote about their Stewardship Summit 2024 earlier this month. One of the topics discussed was how investors are engaging with oil and gas companies, and the information they use to do so. In general, the article explains that the industry isn’t particularly effective at communicating their future plans and investor engagement can only do so much. For instance:

“Oil and gas companies are improving on climate-related disclosures, but are still failing to provide evidence of alignment with decarbonisation metrics and targets, Valeria Piani, Head of Stewardship at UK-based long-term savings and retirement business Phoenix Group.”

Investors continue to rely on traditional financial information and reporting to decode what is really happening:

“David Carlin, Head of Climate Risk at the UN Environment Progamme Finance Initiative … said the real value and criticality of [development of frameworks for climate transition plans] was that it made companies describe the planning and capital allocations associated with their climate pledges. ‘That is the stuff we can make decisions on,’ he said.”  

The current economic climate, which benefitted fossil fuel companies in recent years, may be partially to blame for a lack of carbon transition exuberance on the part of the oil and gas industry:

“It has been a challenging time for relations between the oil and gas sector and climate-conscious investors, with several fossil fuel majors reneging on emissions-reduction pledges last year, amid record profits.” 

The panel pointed out that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) – oil and gas companies owned by sovereign entities rather than investors – are the “elephant in the room” and that investors have no way to engage with SOEs on climate risk. SOEs are often overlooked but “are responsible for approximately 55% of global oil and gas production and are planning US$2 trillion worth of investment in hydrocarbon extraction.”

This feedback presents a learning moment for any company interested in providing effective communications about carbon transition/decarbonization plans and activities. Take a look at the climate disclosure from your favorite oil and gas company and give it a critical review. How does it stack up against your own company document? Are there ways to improve yours not only in comparison to what the oil company says – but also what is missing or ambiguous? Happy reading.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile