Decarbonisation day

Friday 11 November was “decarbonisation day” and focused on solutions to reduce emissions from carbon intensive industries, such as the steel, oil and gas sectors. The day brought together policy makers, scientists and industry representatives in an effort to promote collaboration on innovative solutions to reduce carbon emissions. Key events included:

  • Renewable Hydrogen: a technical panel led by the Global Renewable Hydrogen Forum (co-sponsored by Egypt and Belgium) discussed how to accelerate the development and use of renewable hydrogen and how to facilitate cross-border trade;
  • Private Public Sector Coalition: Egypt and Bechtel launched a joint program to decarbonise existing oil and gas facilities across Egypt; and
  • East Mediterranean Gas Forum: the regional group (members include Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Palestine) launched a decarbonisation initiative.

Joe Biden

The biggest event of the day was United States President Joe Biden’s address to the conference. Biden sought to reestablish the global leadership of the US on climate change. His speech was focused on showcasing the country’s plans domestically and globally for the climate transition and asked world leaders to “do more”.

From a global perspective, key announcements made in Biden’s speech were:

  • Egypt – Europe Gas Deal: President Biden announced the United States’ support of a proposed Egypt – Europe gas deal, in which Egypt will export natural gas to Europe. This gas supply which was previously used for domestic consumption in Egypt, will be replaced with increased renewable energy output (solar and wind). The US and Germany will provide financial support for half of this plan – made up of grants, affordable loans and debt swaps. The parties believe that the investment in renewables could reach $10 billion USD.
  • Methane regulation: Biden announced that the US Environmental Protection Agency would begin to regulate methane, a greenhouse gas, which is often emitted from oil and gas operations. Methane is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. The proposed regulatory scheme would incentivise methane emitters to lower their emissions, with penalties of up to $1,500 per ton of methane. As methane is often emitted from leaking oil wells and pipelines, Biden also referenced $1.55 billion in funding for upgrades to equipment.

The future of natural gas

The trend of natural gas being emphasised as a key part of the energy transition has continued at COP27. As natural gas releases less emissions than coal, proponents suggest it is an important step in the transition to cleaner energy. Egypt hosted a meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum shortly before COP27 and COP27 president, Sameh Shoukry, called natural gas “a transitional source of energy”. Attendees included the host of COP28, the United Arab Emirates. Ministers declared after the meeting that “Cop27 and Cop28 present a great opportunity to make a case for gas in the energy transition”. Reflecting this sentiment was the large contingency gas industry representatives at COP27.

Amidst an energy crisis in Europe, experts, such as Nazmeera Moola, the chief sustainability officer at South African investment firm Ninety One, predicted an increase in exploration of new gas reserves across Africa. In February this year, the EU moved to categorise natural gas (and nuclear) as a “green energy” source, allowing for easier investment in such developments. Others suggest that increasing reliance on natural gas is the wrong step, with John Silk, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands stating that “renewables are already the frontrunner – that is the smart, clean, cheap investment today”.

Adaptation and agriculture

The focus of day 6, Saturday 12 November turned to how agriculture can adapt to the changing climate, particularly amongst rural populations. As extreme weather events, such as severe draught and intense flooding, are getting increasingly regular, it is a key issue that farmers build resilience and are able to grow food even in these tough conditions. Dina Saleh, Regional Director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), explained that failure to help rural populations to adapt could have dangerous consequences, leading to more poverty, migrations and conflict. Therefore it was stressed that funds are made available for sustainable agricultural support and for help to farmers to adapt and mitigate against the changes in climate.

Also part of the discussions was the importance of innovation and transformation of the agri-food systems to lower greenhouse emissions, a sector contributing about a third of current emissions. In particular, the Deputy Director of the agency’s Climate and Environment Division, Zitouni Ould-Dada highlighted food waste as a key issue to tackle, being itself alone responsible for 8% of global gas emissions.

To address these issues, the new initiative Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) was initiated to improve the quantity and quality of climate finance contributions by 2030. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization will be the facilitator of the programme and it will be supported by countries all over the world through multi-stakeholder partnerships. At the launch event, the COP27 president, Sameh Shoukry, said that through the FAST initiative, the world will be mobilised to unlock finance flows to increase climate resilience and implement urgently needed transformation across agrifood systems.

There was also a special session on “Advancing Adaptation Action in Africa”, co-hosted by Shoukry and the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, in which Kerry announced USD 150 million of US aid to address Africa’s adaptation to climate.