The Road Ahead for the IGUPublished on May 24, 2022
The Secretary General of the International Gas Union, Milton Catelin, outlines what his vision is for the organisation, and both the challenges and opportunities it faces.
By Joseph Murphy
The IGU has recently opened its new HQ in London. What does that mean for the union?
Milton Catelin: For more than 90 years the IGU secretariat has been housed within one of its member companies or associations, as of summer 2021 it is for the first time officially independent of any host. The establishment of a fully independent secretariat brings considerable benefits to the membership and stability for the future of the IGU.
An independent secretariat assures the critical values of continuity and impartiality to all members. It enhances the capacity to build up knowledge and develop expertise. It allows the growth of long-term relationships and networks with other international agencies and associations.
What would you say your vision is for the organisation?
MC: I see an IGU focused, inclusive, engaged and active in shaping the strategic operating environment of its membership. The industry needs to remind the world that without growth, national economies do not have the inclination, time, or resources to tackle environmental degradation and climate change.
The challenge for the gas industry is to adapt to a changing policy and investment landscape, AND to evolve in ways which don’t simply support but even lead efforts to decarbonise the energy system.
Investors are becoming a strategic driver of decarbonisation action, growing increasingly sensitive to the demand horizon for hydrocarbons and shifting attention to the environmental impact of gas production through Environment Social Governance (ESG)-focused investing. Stranded asset risk is a significant concern for shareholders as the future energy mix takes shape.
How gas companies choose to engage with the low carbon energy transition will determine how they are viewed by shareholders, governments, and the general public.
The industry needs to counter criticism that gas is simply “the next fossil fuel to be eliminated”. It needs to demonstrate not merely that gas is a transition fuel but a foundation fuel for the future:
- Displacing coal particularly in large developing countries;
- Facilitating the integration of renewables and mitigating intermittency issues;
- Providing increasingly low carbon energy, particularly coupled with CCUS and as a feedstock for blue hydrogen;
- Enabling an achievable decarbonisation of the global energy system at the scale and speed needed, especially in the major industrial clusters;
- Enhancing energy security;
- Eradicating energy poverty.
Given the current situation in the world energy markets and beyond, would you say this is more a time of challenge or a time of opportunity for the IGU?
MC: Every challenge is an opportunity and the IGU has demons trated a capacity to refresh and renew itself to seek those opportunities. In 2022, we start with a new Triennium Work Plan, a new President, a new secretary general and a new leadership team focused on the future.
There is a significant opportunity in the immediate future years to enhance dialogue and engagement with key players on the international scale critical to the future of gas – particularly the financial community, the multilateral governance bodies, and partners in other industries. We can achieve a lot more through collaboration than we can alone, especially when it comes to solving the world’s major quest for a secure and sustainable energy path. There is also an opportunity for IGU to help with regional initiatives in important parts of the developing world and so help both decarbonisation and remind the world of the value of gas.
Finally, the world’s current challenges – the turmoil in Ukraine and eastern Europe, rising inflation, the threat of stagflation, disruptions to supply chains for essential fuels and foods, the massive cost of the COVID pandemic, huge national budget deficits – can only serve to reinforce our message that economic development, energy security and tackling the climate challenge need to be addressed systematically and with common sense.
What is your vision for the upcoming triennium working with the IGU’s Presidency in China?
I am very enthusiastic about President Li Yalan’s plans for the coming y ears. The Chinese leadership has come up with a thoughtful and far-r eaching Triennium Work Plan that will build the IGU into a more effective organisation focused on recognition of regional variation and actions that make a r eal difference.
I have been extraordinarily impressed with the calibre of staff at the secretariat and the quality of IGU’s elected leadership. These are solid foundations for our future.
I see an IGU with a seat at the table of the major fora in the international architecture and fully engaged in constructively addressing the world’s challenges, and I see gas as playing its true role as a solution to one of the world’s key challenges of providing enough clean, modern, affordable, and secure energy to all who need it to continue improving lives and enabling a better future for all.
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