In the last couple of decades, the development of practices and use of tools for managing the interaction of oil and gas developments with the surrounding natural environment have been steadily improving; these are now being incorporated into decision-making processes throughout the oil and gas project lifecycle. The growth in knowledge and capacity surrounding effective Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BES) issues management throughout the project lifecycle is central to operating responsibly in accordance with conservation objectives; this is paramount especially when operating in ecologically significant and protected areas. Effective management of BES issues within oil and gas operations is achieved through early identification of sensitivities, and systematic assessment and mitigation of all potential impacts on these via application of the mitigation hierarchy. Management actions also include the identification of opportunities to generate conservation benefits, for example through formation of strategic partnerships, increased resources for conservation management and the generation of ecological information.
Since 2002, the member-led BES Working Group of IPIECA has been providing leadership and practical guidance driving performance improvements in relation to BES issues within the oil and gas industry. IPIECA enables member companies to apply, across their global operations, good practice and tools that are based on sound science and developed in partnership with relevant stakeholders whilst considering the most recent conservation concepts.
The challenge for the global oil and gas sector is to keep pace with growing global energy demand, as illustrated in the ‘World Energy Outlook 2014’, whilst operating in a responsible manner in a wide range of terrestrial and marine environments with varying degree of ecological sensitivity and conservation value. Like other businesses, oil and gas activities are dependent on the natural resources that biodiversity and ecosystems provide and have the potential to cause direct and indirect impacts on these. An in-depth understanding of the operating environment, the regulatory context and the range of stakeholder perspectives is critical for effective management and mitigation of all potential impacts, associated risks as well as for identifying opportunities to conserve and/or enhance BES locally. Through IPIECA, these challenges are well understood and effectively managed via access to the collective and global knowledge of the members. The practical experience of IPIECA members is core to the development and application of BES good practices and tools that offer the necessary flexibility to be implemented in a variety of natural environments and operational contexts.
The solution centres on a BES management framework that provides an approach, implementation practices and tools for early identification of BES sensitivities, systematic assessment and effective mitigation of all potential impacts on these along the project lifecycle. The framework is relevant for any operation and in any type of natural environment. It is based on the principle that effective management of BES issues is achieved through:
- careful alignment of the BES mitigation timeline with the oil and gas project timeline;
- application of practices that allow BES evaluations (i.e. BES baseline, impact assessment and mitigation, identification of conservation opportunities, monitoring and reporting) to inform key activities such as project planning, design, execution and operations;
- use of tools that enable the identification, both at global and local scale, of BES sensitivities such as presence of ecologically significant and protected areas, threatened species and key ecosystem services;
- systematic use of the mitigation hierarchy to guide the selection of the optimum combination of management actions along the project lifecycle.
- Continual improvement of operational and BES management practices based on monitoring outcomes. IPIECA provides a unique forum for discussion addressing basic concepts and highlighting the business case of BES issues management, plus development of good practice guidance and fostering partnerships to provide tools for its implementation.
Equipped with the relevant knowledge, good practice guidance, tools and capacity for implementation, oil and gas companies are able to effectively manage BES issues in a wide range of terrestrial and marine environments throughout the project lifecycle. IPIECA provides a forum for raising awareness and understanding within the industry, peer to peer learning and sharing between colleagues and other stakeholders, the promotion of strategic partnerships, and the generation of science-based tools and solutions for on the ground delivery.
The benchmark for the oil and gas sector is rising. As a result of the knowledge and implementation package that IPIECA provides, performance across the sector in relation to BES management is continually improving, offering a pragmatic solution to balancing the rise in energy demand with conservation needs and objectives. IPIECA is a key channel for this tendency with a total of 39 company members which represent over ½ of global oil and a / of global gas production. IPIECA provides leadership and delivers practical examples of biodiversity conservation on the ground. There are also a number of experiences being gathered of oil and gas operations that are compatible with sensitive and protected area, some of these will be illustrated in the ‘Extractive sector: Case studies on biodiversity and ecosystem service management approaches and conservation actions in and around protected areas’ session hosted by IPIECA and UNEP-WCMC in the Biodiversity and Business Pavilion.