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Agent of Impact: Josu Jon Imaz, Repsol

ImpactAlpha, Dec. 13 – It was the write-down heard around the world.

It was the write-down heard ‘round the world.

Spanish energy company Repsol this month became the first oil and gas major to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050. That meant a $5 billion write-down – for starters – in fossil fuel assets. The write-down sent ripples through the oil industry and beyond. In case there was doubt about intentions, Repsol will link executive pay to decarbonization goals.

Repsol, which is valued at $24 billion and operates in 37 countries, is dwarfed by Exxon and Chevron, and CEO Josu Jon Imaz is not a household name. But an accounting tweak vaulted the Madrid company to climate leadership – and turned up the heat on the laggards. “He’s thrown down the gauntlet,” said Carbon Tracker’s Mark Campanale (last week’s Agent of Impact – sensing a trend?).

Energy companies that are proactive and work down to-be-stranded assets with write-downs – and project shutdowns – will spare shareholders sudden shocks later. A week after Repsol’s announcement, Chevron wrote down its oil and gas assets in the U.S. and Canada by $10 billion, but without a corresponding net-zero plan.

Imaz has led Repsol since 2014. The net-zero strategy affects exploration and production to refining, transportation and derivative products like chemicals. “Every time we see a company taking true leadership, it’s always because the CEO is driving change,” says As You Sow’s Danielle Fugere. “This is the full package – Repsol is showing its commitments as well as its plans to achieve those commitments.”

Imaz is well known in Spain’s Basque country, where he studied chemical science and worked at Mondragon, the giant Basque cooperative. He has had roles in the Basque government’s Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Tourism and the Basque Nationalist Party and joined Repsol in 2008 with its Petronor unit.

Another area where he’s made a name: with impact and ESG investors, who now make up 30% of Repsol’s institutional shareholders. Imaz told analysts on a recent earnings call, “We have the conviction that the energy transition is an opportunity to create value for our shareholders.”

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