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Italy’s and EU’s natural gas imports from the United States

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Currently natural gas is one of the most important US assets in its relations with the European Union.

In fact, President Trump and President Jean Claude Juncker spoke at length about it during their last meeting at the White House at the end of July 2018.

Obviously the issue of the US natural gas sales is linked to a broader strategic theme for President Trump.

He wants to redesign – especially with the EU – the system of tariffs and rebalance world trade.

He also wants to recreate a commercial and economic hegemony between the United States and the EU – a hegemony that had tarnished over the last decade.

With the EU, the United States has already achieved a zero-tariff regime for most of the goods traded, also removing non-tariff barriers and all the subsidies to non-automotive goods.

Moreover, since late July last, both sides have decided to increase inter-Atlantic trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products and – as a central issue in their relations with China – soybeans.

What China no longer buys – since it has been burdened with tariffs and duties – is resold to the European Union.

In fact, soy was bought massively by European consumers, as Jean Claude Juncker later added.

The demand for natural gas, however, is on the rise all over the world.

Currently Europe is in difficulty for this specific energy sector, considering that the large gas extraction field in Groningen, Netherlands, suffered an earthquake at the beginning of January 2018.

The Dutch extraction area, however, is managed jointly by both Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon-Mobil.

The North American analysts think that, for the whole EU, the other natural gas sources are at their peak of exploitation.

Gas sources such as Russia, Turkey, Central Asia and the Maghreb region are supposed to be soon saturated as a result of the growth in EU gas consumption and, therefore, the United States is thinking to sell much of its LNG to Europe as well.

With an obvious strategic and geopolitical pendant.

This holds particularly true – at least for the time being – for the Algerian gas, while the United States is currently pressing for a diversification from the Russian pipelines, offering its liquefied natural gas (LNG) for ships to   Northern Europe’s terminals and, recently, also to the Italian ones.

Across the European Union, the natural gas terminals are 28, including Turkey.

There are also eight other small natural gas terminals in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Norway and Gibraltar.

Said terminals are 23 in the EU and 4 in Turkey; 23 are land-based and 4 are at sea for storage and regasification, and the Malta terminal includes both a ground base and a maritime unit.

Italy, one of the largest LNG consumers in Europe, produces a good share of natural gas internally, but it still imports 90% of the gas it consumes, while 60% of Italy’s LNG consumption is divided almost equally between two suppliers, Algeria and the Russian Federation.

By way of comparison, France extracts domestically only 1% of the natural gas it consumes every year.

Also Germany, like Italy, imports much gas from Russia – about 50% of its yearly consumption.

From where, however, does Italy import its natural gas? From Russia, as already seen, as well as from Algeria, Libya, Holland and Norway.

Then there is the Trans Austria Gas (TAG), a network which, again from Russia, brings gas to the Slovakian-Austrian border (precisely to Baumgarten an der March up to Arnoldstein in Southern Austria) with a maximum capacity of 107 million cubic meters per day.

There is also Transitgas, crossing Wallbach, Switzerland, up to Passo Gries, where it intersects with the SNAM network.

It is also connected to Gaz de France and has a maximum capacity of 59 million cubic meters per day.

A significant role is also played by the Trans Tunisian Pipeline Company (TTPC), a network with a capacity of 108 million cubic meters per day, stretching from Oued al Saf, between Tunisia and Algeria, to Cape Bon, where it connects with the Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline Company (TMPC). The network reaches Mazara del Vallo, where it enters the SNAM system.

The security of this line was a factor considered in the decision taken by the Italian intelligence services to participate actively in the struggle for succession in Tunisia, after Habib Bourghiba’s political end.

The Greenstream pipeline connects Libya to Italy, with a maximum capacity of 46.7 million cubic meters per day, with regasifiers located in Panigaglia and off Leghorn’s coast (OLT), as well as off Rovigo’s coast.

It should be recalled that, in July 2018, ENI opened production in the offshore plant of Bar Essalam, a site 120 kilometres off Tripoli’s coast, which could contain 260 billion cubic meters of gas, while the French company Total paid 450 million dollars to buy – from the United States -16% of the oil concession in Waha, Libya.

As is well known, the TAP is under construction.

With a maximum capacity of 24.6 million cubic meters per day, it stretches from Greece to Italy through Albania.

There is also the IGI Poseidon, again between Greece and Italy, as well as the regasification terminal of Porto Empedocle, and the other terminals of Gioia Tauro and Falconara Marittima.

Shortly the pipelines from Algeria to Sardinia could be operational, with a terminal in Piombino, as well as the one in Zaule, and the regasification plant in Monfalcone.

Hence if all these networks are already operational or will be so in the near future, Italy alone could shift the axis of the natural gas transport from the North (namely Great Britain and Holland) to the South (namely Italy and Greece).

If this operation is successful, Italy could become the future natural gas energy hub, thus making it turn from a mere consumer to an exporter of natural gas.

In 2020, SNAM plans to bring 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas from the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which transports Azerbaijan’s LNG, jointly with BP.

This is a further phase of reduction of the EU dependence on Russian gas.

But also the purchase of LNG from the United States could undermine the Italian plan of becoming the European natural gas hub, as against the Dutch-British system.

Obviously the liquefied natural gas is sold by the United States mainly as an operation against Russia.

Currently, the American LNG has prices that are approximately 50% lower than the Russian gas prices.

As pointed out by one of the major Italian energy experts, Davide tabarelli, the price is 8 euros per megawatt / hour as against 22 euros of the LNG coming from Russia.

For the time being, however, China is the world’s top LNG buyer, with a 40% increase in its consumption.

Nevertheless, while China’s gas consumption is booming, the ships carrying natural gas from the United States tend to go right to Asia, where, inter alia, a much higher price than the European average can be charged.

In the EU, however, the Russian gas can be bought at 3.5-4 dollars per Mega British Thermal Unit (MBtu) while the break-even price of the US gas, which is much more expensive to produce, is around 6-7.5 MBtu, including transport.

Competition, however, is still fierce, given that the EU regasifiers are used at 27% of their potential, and considering Qatar’s harsh competition with the United States. It is worth recalling that Qatar is a large producer of natural gas with the South Pars II field, in connection with Iran.

In the near future, the small Emirate plans to sell at least 100 million tons of LNG per year, opposed only by Saudi Arabia’s reaction. According to the usual rating agencies, at banking level Qatar is also expected to suffer the pressure of Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United States.

Nevertheless, if the cost of the trans-Atlantic transport and the cost of regasification in our terminals are added to the 8 euros about which Tabarelli speaks, we can see that the US gas and the Russian LNG prices tend to become the same.

Russia has also much lower gas production costs than the United States, considering that most of the North American LNG is extracted with shale or fracking technologies, which are much more expensive than the Russian ones.

It should be recalled that in 2017 the Russian Federation was the world’s top natural gas exporter, with a record peak of 190 billion cubic meters, accounting for 40% of all EU consumption.

Moreover, thanks to fracking technologies, the United States has become the world’s largest crude oil producer, but also the largest consumer globally. Hence no additional room for its exports of non-gas hydrocarbons can be easily envisaged.

Certainly buying American gas would mean avoiding the US import tariffs for European cars in the future, which would lead many EU governments to willingly accept President Trump’s offer.

Furthermore, ENI is finding much oil and much natural gas in Egypt, which could lead to the building of a pipeline from the Egyptian coast to which also the Israeli natural gas could join.

This implies a significant weakening of both the Egyptian domestic crisis and the tensions between the “moderate” Arab world and the Jewish State.

In fact, in the concession of Obayed East, Egypt, ENI has found a natural gas reserve of 25 million cubic meters per day which, together with the recent discoveries of the Zohr, Norus and Atol deposits, is expected to make Egypt achieve energy autonomy and independence before early winter 2018-2019.

This, too, could be one of President Trump’s geo-energy goal, along with Israel’s expansion on this market. In all likelihood, however, Russia will remain one of the largest or still the largest LNG seller to the whole EU.

However, let us better analyse the situation: with the South Pars II field it shares with Qatar, also Iran could provide the EU with a large part of its yearly natural gas requirements.

Iran is a Russian ally although, in this case, strategic friendships are always less sound than economic interests.

Furthermore, the war in Syria resulted – and probably this is also one of its underlying causes – in a block of future Iranian pipelines to the Mediterranean.

Moreover, China has bought the shareholdings held by the French Total on the Iranian territory.

For the time being, however, the United States sells much of its LNG to Asia and Latin America, where currently prices are still higher than in Europe.

Hence, like all consumer countries, the EU is interested in diversifying its energy suppliers. Nevertheless, the war in Syria has blocked Iran and the war in Libya has made the Greenstream pipeline, which is essential for Italy, unusable.

It should be recalled that Greenstream is the 520-kilometre pipeline connecting Libya to Italy directly.

Almost all the Libyan gas, however, is currently consumed inside the country.

Moreover, at this stage, President Trump would like Germany to stop even the doubling of Nord Stream 2 from the Russian coast to the German Baltic Sea.

The Ukrainian leadership is also urging the EU to avoid doubling this project, considering the forthcoming expiry of the Ukrainian contracts for the Russian natural gas.

If this happens, as from 2022 Poland will buy a large share of its natural gas from the United States, thus avoiding the Russian LNG.

Nevertheless, the United States will also favour the Southern Gas Corridor in Azerbaijan and Turkey, with a view to transferring the Caspian natural gas to the EU through Apulia.

Hence Italy would be disadvantaged: instead of using its lines and routes with Libya and Algeria, or Russia, it should buy the Caucasian gas, which will be fully managed by US companies – and this holds true also for the US natural gas direct sales, which have recently started in some Italian ports.

A dangerous political calculation, as well as a risky commercial evaluation.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Indonesia’s contribution in renewables through Rare Earth Metals

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The increasing of technological advances, the needs of each country are increasing. The discovery of innovations, the production of goods that are increasing, and renewing energy in a country. It causes countries to desperately need an adequate supply of energy to meet these needs. Energy especially mineral is important in the manufacture of raw materials for an electronic product or can be used as a raw material for realizing renewable energy. Entering the Covid-19 Pandemic, the demand for electronic goods is increasing because, amid a pandemic, people spend more time at home and use digital goods in conducting transactions, using electronic devices, both those used in households such as televisions, refrigerators, induction cookers, washing machines as well as those things we use every day, such as cellphones, laptops and other electronic devices that can accompany people’s daily activities during the pandemic. Besides being able to be used as raw material for making electronic goods, energy, especially Mineral Resources, it can also contribute to realizing the renewable energy in the world, which is the increasing greenhouse gas emissions which will have an impact on the environment and will worsen the environmental, social conditions and Worsening human health is caused by CO2 gas released into the air. Based on data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) explained that the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere increased and reached a record high last year. Therefore, the supply of Mineral Resources is important in a country to meet human needs and realize renewable energy in the future. The Geological Agency of the Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources revealed that Rare Earth Metals were found in a Lapindo mud located in Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia. (Murdaningsih, 2021) Rare Earth Metal is one of the minerals that have very important content to be used as raw materials for the manufacture of electronic goods, electric vehicles, and as an energy that can be used as a source of realizing renewable energy. Currently, the world’s largest reserves of Rare Earth Metals are in China, which is the main producer of Rare Earth Metals in the world followed by the United States, Australia, and India (Potential of Rare Earth Metals in Indonesia, 2019). The discovery of rare earth metals in Indonesia can be maximized by Indonesia to take advantage of this invention. Maximizing a Rare Earth Metal can be done to meet the needs of society, especially to meet the supply of electronic goods in a country, and participate in producing Rare Earth Metals in the world to maximize international cooperation both in terms of cooperation to meet electronic products, as well as mutual fulfillment the need to work together in realizing the renewable energy in the world.

Based on data from the Indonesian Central Statistics Agency, it explains that China is still becoming the biggest partner to export telecommunication equipment to Indonesia with an amount of US$ 5,002.8 in 2020 (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2021). Not only telecommunications equipment, but Indonesia is also imports machinery for industrial purposes as much as 757.1 tons (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2021). Therefore, this data shows that Indonesia is still completely dependent on China in importing electronic products as well as products for industrial purposes. To minimize this dependence, Rare Earth Metals can be used as a strategy by Indonesia to participate in producing local electronic goods, as well as a reserve energy source in a country. Indonesia can maximize its diplomatic strategy to cooperate with other countries, such as opening a raw material processing industry by bringing in technologies from other countries to manage raw materials to semi-finished materials or finished products. this strategy can be used by Indonesia to maximize its resources and improve Indonesia’s performance so that it is better in the future and can produce its products without having to import from other countries. Electronic devices will always be updated for the sake of updating to be able to keep up with the growing era of globalization. This causes the technology industry market to become one of the most influential for the economy of a country. The electronics industry facing an increase in raw material prices which causes pressure on prices for finished products to also increase. Secretary-General of the Association of Electronic Entrepreneurs (Gabel) Daniel Suhardiman, said that the increase in raw material prices is continuing to soar due to the scarcity of chip or semiconductor components due to the high demand for the technology industry (Ayu, 2021). The high level of use of electronic devices in daily life will have an impact on the high market demand for the technology industry, so the technology industry must be very careful in dealing with the supply of raw materials.

In addition to Rare Earth Metals which have the potential to meet the supply of raw materials for the manufacture of electronic goods, on the other hand, Rare Earth Metals greatly contribute to assisting in implementing renewable energy in the future. Which is realizing renewable energy in a country is increasingly being carried out by the world caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions that have an impact on the environment. Based on data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) explained that the concentration of greenhouse gases reached a new high. which has levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the air as much as 413.2 parts per million (ppm), methane (CH4) at 1,889 parts per billion (ppb)) and nitrous oxide (N2O) at 333.2 ppb and the increase has continued in 2021 (World Meteorological Organization, 2021). Rare Earth Metals contain minerals in the form of Monazite, Xenotime, and Zircon (Alkalis, 2021). Where these mineral sources can contribute to realizing renewable energy in developing electric vehicles because Rare Earth Metals can also be used as the main raw material for making electric vehicle batteries. The discovery of Rare Earth Metals in Indonesia can also be an opportunity for Indonesia to contribute to realizing a balance in the supply of electronic goods in the world and contribute to realizing the world’s renewable energy in the future.

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Libya’s Energy Puzzle: Every Challenge is an Opportunity

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Libya’s energy sector remains divided between two authorities, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Petroleum Facilities Guard, and three governments namely the House of Representatives in Tobruk, the General National Congress and the Presidential Council in Tripoli. Failure to conduct a fair and expedient election in late December 2021 is expected to prolong division of Libya’s oil wealth between East and West. This would cement the presence of foreign powers and mercenaries in and around Libyan oil and gas installations.

The country’s oil and gas reserves are estimated at approximately 48 billion barrels of crude oil and 52 trillion cubic feet of gas. Libya’s oil production was 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) on average throughout 2020, with plans for oil production to reach up to 2 million bpd within the next five years.

These plans, however, can prove futile because of militant attacks on oil and gas installations, increased number of leaks due to lack of infrastructure maintenance, and the possibility of renewed months-long blockades on energy facilities. The December closure of Shahara field, Libya’s largest oil field in the southwest part of the country, by militants was translated into temporary reduction of oil production by around 350 thousand bpd. That means overall oil production easily decreased at approximately 700 thousand bpd, thus constituting Libya’s lowest production level within a year period.

In addition, months-old blockades on energy facilities, throughout the last few years, have led to the halt of significant part of exports. According to the central bank in Tripoli, oil and gas revenues for 2020 plummeted to 652 million dollars from around 7 billion dollars in 2019, which is, practically, a drop by 92 percent.

Overall, militant attacks and blockades prevent oil exports and deprive Libya from revenues that could be otherwise funneled to its reconstruction. It is also noteworthy that the under-funding of the NOC due to failure to pass a national budget has starved it of economic resources, preventing upgrades to the aging or damaged oil infrastructure, and limiting oil and gas production. 

Foreign Energy Investment Flows

Despite the challenges, foreign investment plans continue unabated. French Total, through its subsidiary Total Energies, foresees the execution of a 2-billion-dollar investment plan to increase the production capacity of the North Gialo and NC-98 oil fields.

Concurrently, Total Energies partners with American ConocoPhilips exploration and production company for the acquisition of American Hess Corporation’s 8.16 percent interest in the six Waha oil concessions located in the Sirte Basin in eastern Libya. The commercial deal will increase the French company’s stake in the concessions to 20,4 percent from the current 16,3 percent, thus solidifying the energy footprint of France in Libya.

On a parallel level, Royal Dutch Shell announced its plans not only to re-develop ageing fields like the block NC-174 in the Murzuq basin but also to develop new fields offshore the Cyrenaica basin and onshore the Ghadames and Sirte basins. Shell’s investment plans signal its re-entry in Libya after a decade’s absence attributed to the 2011 first Libyan civil war.

The attraction of substantial international investment in the energy sector of Libya, however, remains dependent on improved security and a stable and united government that is outcome of elections.

Russia and Turkey at the Forefront of Actions

In the meantime, foreign powers persist in their battle for control over Libya’s energy wealth, with Russia and Turkey being at the forefront of the evolving dominance process. Russian security contractors and Russian-aligned mercenaries are stationed in Libya to protect critical energy assets operated by Russian oil companies like Gazprom and Rosneft.  Moscow wants to export Libyan oil to Europe in accordance with the relevant provisions of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Russian major Rosneft and NOC that foresees the sale of Libyan crude oil to third markets, and the signing of additional energy deals that will allow Moscow to maintain its position as a leading supplier of energy to Europe.

Moscow also looks eager to get a piece of the reconstruction pie in Libya with the renewal of a 2.6-billion-dollar contract for a railway that will connect the city of Sirte to Benghazi, and with the execution of other infrastructure projects. On top of that, Moscow maintains military interests in Libya and persistently pursues its bid to gain a permanent naval facility on the 1,900-kilometer Libyan coast that will serve as a Russian gate to Africa.

For its part, Turkey looks eager to collect Qaddafi-era debt owed to Turkish businesses, to participate in the 50-billion-dollar of reconstruction contracts, and to establish a Turkey-Libya axis that would disrupt the alignment between Greece, Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt. This was the specific goal of the Turkey-Libya MoU on the demarcation of maritime boundaries, which is nevertheless invalid for two reasons: Firstly, it was not ratified by the Libyan Parliament and, secondly, it was not approved unanimously by members of the Presidential Council in breach of the UN-sponsored Libyan Political Agreement.

Alarming bells have started to ring in western capitals over the alleged close cooperation between Russia and Turkey on the basis that they have practically divided Libya, on the patterns of Syria, into distinct spheres of influence between them. There are worries that Libya is divided along Islamic lines supported by Turkey. Turkish support of Islamic militias with military equipment is allegedly used to damage Libyan critical energy infrastructure. The ultimate Turkish goal is to control a large portion of Libya’s offshore gas, to disrupt the unimpeded flow of energy, and thus control a significant part of Libyan energy reserves.

The Way Out

To prevent a security breakdown and another round of civil conflict that will negatively impact development and production of energy resources in Libya, a new definite elections date must be declared. The UN can serve as valuable vehicle in this direction by ensuring that Libyan presidential and parliamentary elections are held as soon as possible, while enabling the resolution of pending matters that postponed them in the first place. Failure to meet a new elections’ deadline would trigger a constitutional crisis, undermine the legitimacy of the political system, create an opening for domestic spoilers, and provide a pretext for foreign powers to maintain their malign military presence in Libya.

Evidently, time is of essence. But still, there is a window of opportunity for Libya to escape the vicious cycle of instability and uncertainty that prevents the realization of its full energy potential. It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that the international community can play a constructive role to this end.

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Energy transition is a global challenge that needs an urgent global response

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COP26 showed that green energy is not yet appealing enough for the world to reach a consensus on coal phase-out. The priority now should be creating affordable and viable alternatives 

Many were hoping that COP26 would be the moment the world agreed to phase out coal. Instead, we received a much-needed reality check when the pledge to “phase out” coal was weakened to “phase down”. 

 This change was reportedly pushed by India and China whose economies are still largely reliant on coal. The decision proved that the world is not yet ready to live without the most polluting fossil fuels. 

 This is an enormous problem. Coal is the planet’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, but also a major source of energy, producing over one-third of global electricity generation. Furthermore, global coal-fired electricity generation could reach an all-time high in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

 Given the continued demand for coal, especially in the emerging markets, we need to accelerate the use of alternative energy sources, but also ensure their equal distribution around the world.

 There are a number of steps policymakers and business leaders are taking to tackle this challenge, but all of them need to be accelerated if we are to incentivise as rapid shift away from coal as the world needs. 

 The first action to be stepped up is public and private investment in renewable energy. This investment can help on three fronts: improve efficiency and increase output of existing technologies, and help develop new technologies. For green alternatives to coal to become more economically viable, especially, for poorer countries, we need more supply and lower costs.

 There are some reasons to be hopeful. During COP26 more than 450 firms representing a ground-breaking $130 trillion of assets pledged investment to meet the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement. 

 The benefits of existing investment are also becoming clearer. Global hydrogen initiatives, for example, are accelerating rapidly, and if investment is kept up, the Hydrogen Council expects it to become a competitive low-carbon solution in long haul trucking, shipping, and steel production.

 However, the challenge remains enormous. The IEA warned in October 2021 that investment in renewable energy needs to triple by the end of this decade to effectively combat climate change. Momentum must be kept up.

 This is especially important for countries like India where coal is arguably the main driver for the country’s economic growth and supports “as many as 10-15 million people … through ancillary employment and social programs near the mines”, according to Brookings Institute.  

This leads us to the second step which must be accelerated: support for developing countries to incentivise energy transition in a way which does not compromise their growth. 

Again, there is activity on this front, but it is insufficient. Twelve years ago, richer countries pledged to channel US$100 billion a year to less wealthy nations by 2020, to help them adapt to climate change. 

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the financial assistance failed to reach $80 billion in 2019, and likely fell substantially short in 2020. Governments say they will reach the promised amount by 2023. If anything, they should aim to reach it sooner.

There are huge structural costs in adapting electricity grids to be powered at a large scale by renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. Businesses will also need to adapt and millions of employees across the world will need to be re-skilled. To incentivise making these difficult but necessary changes, developing countries should be provided with the financial support promised them over a decade ago.

The third step to be developed further is regulation. Only governments are in a position to pass legislation which encourages a faster energy transition. To take just one example, the European Commission’s Green Deal, proposes introduction of new CO2 emission performance standards for cars and vans, incentivising the electrification of vehicles. 

This kind of simple, direct legislation can reduce consumption of fossil fuels and encourage industry to tackle climate change.

Widespread legislative change won’t be straightforward. Governments should closely involve industry in the consultative process to ensure changes drive innovation rather than add unnecessary bureaucracy, which has already delayed development of renewable assets in countries including Germany and Italy. Still, regardless of the challenges, stronger regulation will be key to turning corporate and sovereign pledges into concrete achievements. 

COP26 showed that we are not ready as a globe to phase out coal. The priority for the global leaders must now be to do everything they can to drive the shift towards green energy and reach the global consensus needed to save our planet.

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