Comment: On the world stage06 February 2024

For the first time, nations attending the COP28 climate conference in Abu Dhabi in December agreed to transition away from fossil fuels.

I am an employee of an international oil company (IOC) that is seconded to a joint venture with an Angolan national oil company (NOC); both signed up to these agreements. That both of them have taken that stance – along with 50 other companies – is positive for the globe as a whole. Once commitments are made, they are straight away put into the laps of the engineers to work out how to meet them; the commitments filter down quickly to the shopfloor. If we don’t change quickly, we won’t achieve them.

But huge challenges remain in even in reaching agreement across all of the countries and companies of the world about what should be done, when there are so many different conflicting demands.

Consider the interests of NOCs which are tightly linked to their local government, and so share its agenda of developing the country. They want to do it in the right way, but equally they don’t want to put the economy that they are building at risk. A lot of countries are resource-rich, so any commitments to move away from exploiting those resources would need to provide another way to obtain financial and energy security.

No wonder that industrial regulation in a lot of countries prioritises making production quotas than environmental concerns, unlike the UK approach, which focusses on safety and environmental issues.

Every NOC and IOC is investing in alternative energy. For example, locally in Angola, my JV employer is proactive there. The compromise is that it, and other NOCs, will continue to make money from oil and gas resources to allow them to reinvest in alternative forms of energy.

At the technician level, the responsibilities of an electrician working on a solar generation plant are similar to an electrician in an oil and gas facility, even if there are fewer pumps and motors. So there are definitely skills that can transfer from oil and gas operations into renewables.


Steve Rees, chair, Institution of Plant Engineers

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