Equinor quits oil lobby group over 'material misalignment' on climate policy

  • Mar 31, 2020
  • Business Green

Equinor has become the latest oil major to quit a trade body amid disagreements over climate policy, confirming late last week that it is leaving the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

The Norwegian oil and gas giant published a new review of all its trade body memberships, delivering on a 2019 pledge to the Climate Action 100+ group of investors to ensure its membership in relevant industry associations does not "undermine the ambitions of the Paris Agreement".

"Achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement will require significant efforts across society, from policy makers to consumers, from individual companies to industry associations," the company said in a statement on its website. "Aligning our contribution and position as an industry, across companies and associations, will be key in supporting the energy transition."

It added that the completed review of industry associations and initiatives had revealed some climate policy misalignments with some associations and set out the actions the company will take.

Specifically, it concluded that IPAA had made no public statements regarding the human activities influencing climate, support of the Paris agreement or carbon pricing.

"We believe that IPAA's lack of position on climate leaves the association materially misaligned with Equinor's climate policy and advocacy position," it added. "Equinor has assessed our membership and decided not to remain a member of IPAA from 2020."

The report also highlighted "some misalignment" with the American Petroleum Institute and the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) and pledged to try and influence both organisations to take a more progressive stance on climate policy issues.

"Our assessment of API's climate position and climate policy principles shows some misalignment with Equinor's position," the company said. "We have however observed a positive shift over recent years reducing the gap. Based on our dialogue with API's leadership we expect further progress. API is actively developing their climate policy position… Equinor will remain a member of this organisation and engage in further developing API's climate position."

Similarly, the company said it would use its membership of APPEA to encourage it to progress its climate change policy principles in Australia. "We will also encourage APPEA to take a clear stand on supporting carbon pricing in Australia and not supporting carryover of credits from the Kyoto protocol to the Paris Agreement," it added.

The review is the latest in a series of trade body audits from leading oil majors after sustainable investor group Climate Action 100+ made ensuring lobby group alignment is aligned with a company's environmental goals a key ask for boards as it seeks to engage with carbon intensive companies to develop Paris Agreement-compatible strategies. Shell, BP, and others have similarly quit a number of industry associations and put others on notice that they could leave in the future if climate policy positions are not aligned.

The news came as Equinor announced plans to cut investments, exploration drilling and operating costs by around $3bn as it seeks to combat the coronavirus crisis and low oil prices.

The company has also announced it is to suspend a $5bn share buyback program and will suspend US onshore drilling.

"We are now taking actions to further strengthen our resilience in this situation," CEO Eldar Saetre said.

However, in an encouraging sign for the renewables sector, a spokesman for the company told Reuters that while the company now intends to cut capital expenditure for 2020 to around $8.5bn from an initial $10-$11bn, a planned increase in renewable energy investments would proceed.