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Funding and Policy Challenges Facing Africa’s Petroleum Industry



Editor’s Note: Modern Diplomacy, along with Global Leaders especially OPEC members, mourns Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC Secretary General, whose unexpected death occurred early this month. Modern Diplomacy is hereby reproducing one of his last speeches in which he examined, among others, a few of the significant policy issues affecting investment in the sector.

“At the end of this month, I will hand over the baton as Secretary General to my brother and friend Haitham Al-Ghais of the State of Kuwait. He is a seasoned veteran of the oil industry and an astute diplomat who has dedicated himself to OPEC for many years,” said Barkindo.

Barkindo, 63, a veteran of the oil industry, was due to step down at the end of this month after six years in the top job at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).


Today, I would like to talk about some of the funding challenges facing our industry here in Africa and globally, as well as examine a few of the policy issues affecting investment in the sector. Before I do so, I would like to draw your kind attention to a couple of important milestones in Nigeria’s recent history. One year ago this month, the Petroleum Industry Bill was adopted by both houses of the 9th National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. This was a ground-breaking achievement, culminating many long years of hard work. I am confident that the implementation of the law will help unlock the full potential of our petroleum industry, strengthen its ability to attract long-term investment, as well as support a dynamic and diverse economy.

If our NOCs are to continue to innovate and flourish, it is of utmost importance that they have predictable and unfettered access to investment capital. Regular Investment at adequate levels is the lifeblood of our industry. It is essential if we are to develop new technologies, strengthen our human capacity and remain leaders in innovation so that we can do our part to meet the world’s growing need for energy, shrink our overall environmental footprint, and expand access to underserved communities.

Yet our industry is now facing huge challenges along multiple fronts, and these threaten our investment potential now and in the longer term. To put it bluntly, the oil and gas industry is under siege!

For starters, the evolving geopolitical developments in Eastern Europe, the ongoing war in Ukraine, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and inflationary pressures across the globe have come together in a perfect storm that is causing significant volatility and uncertainty in the commodity markets and, more importantly, in the world of energy.

Against this backdrop, a number of industrialized countries and multilateral institutions continue to pursue stringent policies aimed at accelerating the energy transition and fundamentally altering the energy mix.

Putting these issues aside for a moment, we must not forget that our industry is still reeling from the enormous investment losses of recent years.

In a very short timespan, the industry has been hit by two major cycles – the severe market downturn in 2015 and 2016, and the even more far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the first year of the pandemic and one of the darkest periods in the history of oil, upstream oil capital expenditure fell by around 30%. This exceeded the colossal 26% annual declines experienced during the severe industry downturn in 2015 and 2016.

Looking further down the road, OPEC’s most recent World Oil Outlook gives us some perspective on what is to come. It shows the global oil sector will need cumulative investments of $11.8 trillion in the upstream, midstream and downstream through to 2045 to meet expectations for significant growth in energy demand.

With regard to demand, there is only one direction, and that is up. In fact, OPEC projects that total primary energy demand will expand by a robust 28% in the period to 2045. Oil is expected to retain the largest share of the energy mix, accounting for just over a 28% share in 2045, followed by gas at around 24%. In other words, oil and gas together will continue to supply more than half of the world’s energy needs for many decades. These hydrocarbons are especially vital to the energy mix in regions like Africa, which will see massive population shifts and economic growth in the coming years. These developments increase the urgency of eradicating energy poverty.

The impacts of the two major market cycles are manifesting themselves in real time. Years of underinvestment in the oil sector help explain the current market tightness and razor-thin spare capacity margins.

In OPEC’s 62-year history, spare capacity has never been as low as it is today, and this takes into account periods of war, natural disaster and other market shocks. If this trend continues, it could haunt us in the future.

We could, however, unlock resources and strengthen capacity if the oil produced by the Islamic Republic of Iran and Venezuela were allowed to return to the market. As we know, their oil industries have been held hostage by geopolitics, while Libya has faced internal challenges that have at times sharply curbed its exports. Unfortunately, the disruptions affecting these three OPEC Member Countries not only contribute to the current market tightness, they directly affect the welfare and development of these great nations.

Here, it is also important to remember that it takes time to return to normal operations and restore production capacity. This is especially the case in countries that have had to endure restrictions on investment and exports, and following severe market shocks like we saw in 2020. As we all know, you cannot turn a tap and solve the world’s oil needs overnight; it takes time, technology, logistics and capital.

Reading the daily news feed, the upstream has become a favourite scapegoat for the current market conditions. However, this discounts the current capacity challenges that also plague the downstream, especially with regard to transportation fuels. Refinery closures in recent years – coupled with a number of untimely accidents at important regional refineries – have curtailed supplies and helped fuel the energy market volatility of recent months.

OPEC’s 2022 Annual Statistical Bulletin helps shed light on the situation. Worldwide refinery capacity fell by more than 330,000 barrels per calendar day year-on-year in 2020 and remained below pre-pandemic levels last year despite the robust global economic rebound. The Middle East, China, as well as Africa and India, have recorded refining capacity additions. However, refinery capacity in the OECD declined for the third consecutive year in 2021. Comparing the pre-pandemic year of 2019 to 2021, OECD refining capacity fell by a significant 1.5 million barrels per calendar day, or 3.3%. Given the global refining squeeze at the moment, the construction of the Dangote refinery in Lagos, with its capacity of around 650,000 barrels per day, is a huge step in the direction of addressing not only  Nigeria’s longer-term demand – but significantly improving the capacity outlook of the global down-stream sector.

The urgent need to ensure predictable investment is one reason OPEC joined hands with a number of key non-OPEC oil-producing countries in the Declaration of Cooperation back in December of 2016. With our combined expertise and experience to guide us, the participating countries were able to move quickly and decisively to address the widening market crisis at the onset of COVID-19. Rarely in the history of our industry have we witnessed such far-reaching efforts to restore sustainable stability to the global oil market, which in turn has been vital to the global economic recovery.

Let me stress here that many African producing countries, both OPEC and non-OPEC Members, have been instrumental in supporting the framework Declaration of Cooperation from the start. These efforts have not gone unnoticed by policymakers, energy analysts and some of the leading stakeholders in the international oil industry. We remain optimistic these market-stabilization efforts will extend beyond the Declaration of Cooperation’s current production adjustment schedule, which is due to expire at the end of August, particularly taking into consideration the persistent volatility and enormous uncertainties in the market. Last week’s important OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting, which by the way was the 30th held since the beginning of the DoC, demonstrated once again the commitment of our participating countries to remain resolutely focused on oil market stability and supporting the global economy.

OPEC is a unique Organization and has always dedicated itself to cooperation and teamwork regardless of the geopolitical landscape. We have drawn on this experience to support the growth and stability of the global oil market by continually expanding data exchanges, technical capacity and high-level cooperation with many leading oil-consuming countries, producers and institutions. Our first High-level Meeting of the OPEC-Africa Energy Dialogue took place last year, marking a major milestone in our collaboration with like-minded organizations across this great continent.

These efforts to build strong sustainable relationships are proving their worth. Over the longer term, we believe these Dialogues will facilitate the sharing of experiences, lessons learnt and best practices to support efforts for an inclusive and sustainable way forward.

Regrettably, we are seeing global energy cooperation becoming more fragmented. New regional alignments are threatening to reverse years of progress towards creating a more stable and interconnected energy system. We cannot afford to allow multilateral energy cooperation and global energy security become collateral damage of geopolitics.

As many of you know, I have been involved in the global climate negotiations since their inception three decades ago, representing Nigeria in the early years and more recently OPEC. The past negotiating sessions were never easy. However, there was always space around the table for multiple viewpoints to be heard and consensual outcomes to be found.

Unfortunately, the policy narrative in the run-up to and during COP26 last year in Glasgow, UK was heavily distorted against hydrocarbons and divorced from the reality of the world’s energy needs. Developing countries were urged to turn their backs on their own hydrocarbon assets, even though their right to sovereignty over the use of these natural resources is carved in the Paris Agreement’s principle of equity in the context of sustainable development.

Efforts to unwisely encourage divestment in the hydrocarbon industries are unfortunately becoming more pronounced. Last month, UN Secretary-General António Guterres suggested in remarks at a White House-sponsored event that our industry is ignoring its responsibility to address the climate change challenge and is undermining global climate policies.

Such misleading pronouncements are terribly unfair to many of us in this industry who have dedicated ourselves to working towards inclusive, just and sustainable solutions to the climate challenge. In fact, key stakeholders in the industry are participating in the intergovernmental arrangements and initiatives to develop, deploy and promote cutting-edge technologies to reduce emissions from the production and consumption of energy.

Furthermore, I would respectfully point out that the G7 countries only a few weeks ago called on energy-exporting countries to increase oil production and acknowledged the critical role of OPEC in this regard.

Then at last week’s G7 Summit in Germany, the leaders took a step in the right direction by recognizing the need for continued investment in fossil fuels to help meet the world’s energy needs. It is imperative that they translate these words into policy actions that affirm the importance of a broad portfolio of energy options, including oil and gas, and support an investment climate that makes this possible.

Inopportune remarks and efforts to discourage oil exploration and development are bound to sow the seeds of a more pronounced energy crisis and undermine global energy security. Moreover, they jeopardize efforts to achieve universal, reliable and affordable energy access for people across the globe, including those in developing countries.

Both the market and consumers deserve clear and consistent policies which recognize that oil is indispensable to global economic development and the world’s energy mix. Our industry cannot afford to sleepwalk into another crisis. It is of utmost importance that we seize opportunities to encourage world leaders to return to the roots and principles of the Paris Agreement. This means focusing on inclusive, Party-driven negotiations and decision-making based on the science and data, not emotions and rhetoric.

COP27, which will take place in Egypt later this year, offers a prime opportunity for developing nations, including those producing oil and gas, to make our voices heard. This is a chance to return to a balanced and holistic process to address critical issues such as adaptation, mitigation and the means of implementation, especially climate finance and technology.

Furthermore, COP27 provides a platform to reaffirm the importance of multilateralism and mutual respect among nations. These principles are pillars of OPEC’s own success dating back to its founding in 1960 in Baghdad, Iraq.

We also need more cooperation and financial firepower when it comes to tackling energy poverty. Globally, more than 750 million people lack reliable electricity. A further 2.6 billion do not have safe and clean fuels and technologies for cooking and heating. In Sub-Saharan Africa, OPEC data show that an estimated 47% of people have no electricity and approximately 85% lack access to clean cooking and heating fuels. Considering the enormous energy resources available on this continent, this is simply hard to accept.

At OPEC, we are committed to expand energy access and help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Many of our Member Countries are already taking a lead in developing and deploying innovative technologies that can help ensure a stable and sustainable energy supply for all. We are proud that our sister Organization, the OPEC Fund for International Development, has helped finance energy projects across the global south since it was set up by OPEC Member Countries, including Nigeria in 1976.

Each step we take to improve energy access is a step in the right direction, but we need all forms of energy to reach our destination. As Nelson Mandela once said, “You can start changing our world for the better daily, no matter how small the action.”

When I first became Nigeria’s delegate to OPEC in 1986, little did I know that I would end up as its Secretary General 30 years later. I will forever be grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari for sending me to OPEC to serve as its 28th Secretary General. It has been gratifying to enjoy his full support, advice and guidance throughout my tenure, during which time I drank from his fountain of wisdom and reservoir of knowledge of OPEC. Muhammadu Buhari is the only current President in the world to have served as Minister of Petroleum and Head of delegation to the Organization.

Serving as Secretary General of OPEC for two terms has been the honour of a lifetime. Over the past six years, we have witnessed both challenging and historic moments, which have underscored time and again the importance of cooperation and teamwork. It has also been a source of pride to see African oil-producing countries becoming more prominent on the global energy stage, not only in OPEC, but through organizations like the Gas Exporting Countries Forum and International Energy Forum with whom we share many members in common.

Together with my very able colleagues at the Secretariat in Vienna, our Member Countries and those in the Declaration of Cooperation framework, we have turned a historic page and wrote several glorious chapters of our industry in the last six years.

At the end of this month, I will hand over the baton as Secretary General to my brother and friend Haitham Al-Ghais of the State of Kuwait. He is a seasoned veteran of the oil industry and an astute diplomat who has dedicated himself to OPEC for many years.

As we move on to a new chapter, we can take comfort in knowing that OPEC and its Member Countries will continue to devote themselves to the core principles of the Organization’s statute: supporting a stable and secure energy future for the benefit of producers, consumers and the global economy. The best is yet to come for OPEC, for Nigeria, and for this great industry.

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The Potential of Palestinian Gas and the Role of Regional Powers: From Promise to Action

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Recent progress on the Gaza marine gas field’s development is positive news and highlights the potential for mutually beneficial agreements in the East Mediterranean. The preliminary approval by Israel of the Palestinian field’s development and exploitation is outcome of mediation efforts exerted by Egypt and Jordan that aimed at de-escalation of tensions and building bridges between Palestinians and Israelis. The benefits of the Palestinian field’s development are multifold and range from advancing energy security in Gaza and providing a substantial windfall for the Palestinian economy to improving Israel’s regional standing and attracting investment for the execution of infrastructure projects within the region.

Strained political relations between Israelis and Palestinians, sporadic Israeli support, concerns that revenues would be used to fund terrorism, and low gas prices have been prime reasons that impeded development of the 23-year-old Gaza marine gas field project. The war on Ukraine and the subsequent global energy crisis, as well as the Israel-Lebanon maritime delimitation agreement brought the Gaza marine gas field project to the forefront and accelerated mediation efforts that led to the preliminary approval by Israel for its development. In case a final agreement is reached, the field that contains 1 trillion cubic feet of gas is expected to generate revenues worth approximately $2.5 billion over its 15-year life span.

The Spirit of the Preliminary Deal

According to the preliminary deal, Egypt’s Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) will develop the field and related infrastructure in pursuance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2021 between the Egyptian state-owned company and the field’s partners namely, the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and Consolidated Constructors Company (CCC). The MoU foresees the transportation of Palestinian gas through a 40-mile pipeline to Egyptian LNG facilities for liquefaction and consumption by the Palestinians, Egypt, and third markets. Development of the field is expected to proceed in three phases:  Phase 1 involves extraction of gas from Gaza marine-1, Phase 2 involves construction of the pipeline, and Phase 3 involves the development of Gaza marine-2, a second well closer to Egypt.

The Palestinian Authority will receive gas revenues and the final agreement is expected to be strictly limited in scope prioritizing the exploitation of Gazan gas and leaving outside the issue of recognition between Israel and Hamas. The latter’s tacit approval of the Gaza marine gas field’s development is allegedly outcome of extensive discussions among security officials that favored an Egyptian offer of an economic incentives’ package to Hamas in exchange for a long-term truce (hudna) with Israel. The conversion of the diesel-based Gaza Power Plant to operate on gas produced by the Gaza marine field holds a prime position in the economic incentives’ package. Improvement of living conditions in Gaza for its 2.3 million population is expected to politically benefit Hamas as currently Palestinians experience regular power shortages. In practical terms, Palestinians in Gaza receive an average of 10 hours of electricity per day according to data released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Overall, development of the Gaza marine gas field would provide Palestinians a domestic low-cost energy source, generate revenues for the Palestinian Authority and help Palestinians transition from diesel toward less carbon-intense fuels.

Palestinian Popular Perceptions

Public perceptions in Gaza have been affected by press reports on American mediation efforts for a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel on the precondition that certain concessions are given to the Palestinians. Specifically, majority of the Palestinian public in Gaza and the West Bank maintains that the approval by the most right-wing Israeli government to date for the Gaza marine gas field’s development has been part and parcel of the discussions underway for the oncoming Saudi-Israeli normalization.

An opinion poll released on September 13, 2023, by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) reflects this trend. 29 percent in Gaza believes that an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalize relations could improve the chances for reaching Palestinian-Israeli peace. Related to this perception and taking into consideration that 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, Gazans view more positively than the West Bankers the Oslo Agreement. As cited in the PCPSR poll, 40 percent of Gazans oppose the abandonment of the Oslo Accords by the Palestinian Authority.

When it comes to Palestinian popular perceptions on the development of the Gaza marine gas field, these are reportedly divided between optimists and pessimists. According to the first group, the field’s development would give a positive shock to the Gazan economy by means of job creation and full payment of salaries for public sector employees. As known, the Palestinian Authority currently withholds monthly salaries of public employees by almost 25 percent. Optimists also expect that gas prices will lower thus lifting much of the economic burden on households. At the political level, optimists support that the advancement of the Palestinian economy could pave the way for intra-Palestinian reconciliation between rival political leaders.

Pessimists, on the other hand, argue that economic benefits will be minimal as tax on Gazan gas is expected to be imposed simultaneously by Hamas, Israel, and Egypt thus minimizing prospects of low energy cost and improved living conditions. In addition, they advocate that the gap between Palestinian factions will widen rather than reconcile. To this end, pessimists cite the failure of Palestinian factions’ leadership to reconcile during the recent Egyptian Summit of El-Alamein.

Egypt’s Multileveled Mediation

Egypt has been well positioned to broker negotiations between Hamas and Israel, while Jordan used its political leverage over the Palestinian Authority and hosted a meeting to ensure that discussions continued unabated. In fact, Egypt and Jordan have been third parties in the Palestinian-Israeli meetings held in Aqaba and Sharm Al-Sheikh where the development of the Gaza marine gas field was at the heart of discussions, and a roadmap was put forward for de-escalation of tensions in Gaza.

The economic and regional benefits that Egypt will get from the Palestinian-Israeli agreement on the Gaza marine gas field’s development have been key to the success of Egyptian mediation. Despite the unchanged nature of Egypt’s cold peace with Israel, Egypt has appeared decisive to help Israelis and Palestinians pitch a vision to create shared solutions on energy challenges and opportunities with the Gaza marine gas field at the epicenter.

As per the terms of the preliminary agreement, Egyptian state-owned EGAS will take over development operations of the Gaza marine gas field and secure financing for the overall project. Financing constitutes a crucial element for the project’s development and requires political risk insurance as well as certain payment guarantees initially provided by EGAS and at a later stage by financial institutions.

Related development plans, that are likely incorporated in the economic incentives’ package offered to Hamas during discussions in exchange for long-term truce, include the construction of a new port to improve living conditions in Gaza. These plans foresee, among other options, either the construction of an Egyptian port in El-Arish so that cargoes are transported to Gaza through Kerem Shalom border crossing at the junction of Gaza, Israel and Egypt, or the construction of a Palestinian port on the Egyptian part of Gaza’s south border. Both options entail a leading Egyptian role that centers on investing in critical infrastructure to support the Gazan economy.

At the regional level, Egyptian successful mediation has enhanced Cairo’s leadership role with an emphasis on geoeconomics. In fact, Egypt seeks to pursue its strategic objectives in the region through attraction of economic inflows to enhance its national security and through creation of economic interdependencies balancing between competition and cooperation among geopolitical rivals. The Gaza marine gas field development falls under the category of projects that can cement regional economic interdependencies through a right balance between security considerations and economic cooperation.

The Art of Jordan’s Shuttle Diplomacy

It is upon this regional logic that Jordan used existing partnerships to prepare the ground for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks with initial focus narrowly on the development of the energy-related project in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority’s empowerment. Jordan’s status as an important regional player and mediator between interested parties has been enhanced as a long-awaited win-win initiative has been finally got back to track.

Jordan stands to benefit from the development of the Gaza marine gas field that can be leveraged to create interdependencies. Jordanian state-owned National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) signed in 2015 a Letter of Intent (LoI) with then operator of the Gaza marine field for the supply of approximately 180 million cubic feet (mcf) of gas per day from the Gaza marine field to Jordan. Despite that the LoI is not technically doable at this point due to lack of proper pipeline network, Jordan’s political commitment is timeless.

Development of a regional energy and transportation infrastructure can pave the way for the promotion of quadripartite trade between Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel.  For example, a “water-energy nexus” in a project where solar can be used to generate energy, which would in turn power desalination plants and generate shared drinking water can prove multiply beneficial. As the Jordanian public is averse to importing Israeli gas, converting it into water could scour the stigma not only facilitating trade but also delivering dividends of peace in the form of shared resources.

An additional project that can enhance interdependencies and complementarities is the proposed development of a monorail that would carry hundreds of containers per day from the Israeli port of Haifa to the Jordanian land port of Haditha thus improving trade and supply chain operations for Palestine, Israel, and Gulf countries. There are certain political roadblocks, however, that must be overcome such as the need to achieve equal access for Israelis and Palestinians, and the consent of Egypt due to the project’s likely impact on the Suez Canal’s traffic.  

Jordan stands to benefit from development of gas discoveries offshore Gaza. Aqaba’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal has the potential to become a second regional energy hub. Out of various options, Palestinian gas can be directed to Egyptian liquefaction plants and onward to Jordan, where it could be piped via the Arab Gas Pipeline to Syria, and Lebanon. This scheme would help diversify the region’s energy suppliers and routes. It would also advance Jordan’s energy diversification efforts, which include the import of gas primarily from Egypt, the further development of domestic fields like the Risha gas field, construction of a dual oil and gas pipeline from Iraq, and acceleration of the shift toward renewables.

A Final Note

Unquestionably, energy cooperation and the related economic development along with security considerations were key components that led to the preliminary Palestinian-Israeli agreement on the development of the Gaza marine gas field, with Hamas at the backyard. Considering its promising economic, security, and diplomatic benefits for Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel, it has become more than evident that the Gaza marine gas development project must be implemented swiftly. Simply put, a “win-win” enterprise seems to be on the regional horizon!

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5 ways to power the energy transition

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Transitioning to renewable energy is the key to securing humanity’s survival, as “without renewables, there can be no future”, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, ahead of the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, marked on 7 September.Renewable technologies like wind and solar power are, in most cases, cheaper than the fossil fuels that are driving climate change, but the world needs to prioritize the transformation of energy systems to renewable energy.

The Climate Ambition Summit, scheduled for 20 September at UN Headquarters in New York, will consider how to accelerate this transformation.

Here are five ways that acceleration could happen:

1. Shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy

Fossil fuel subsidies are one of the biggest financial barriers hampering the world’s shift to renewable energy.

The UN Secretary-General has consistently called for an end to all international public and private funding of fossil fuels, one of the major contributors to global warming, calling any new investments in them “delusional”.

“All actors must come together to accelerate a just and equitable transition from fossil fuels to renewables, as we stop oil and gas expansion and funding and licensing for new coal, oil, and gas,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed that $5.9 trillion was spent on subsidizing the fossil fuel industry in 2020 alone. This figure includes subsidies, tax breaks, and health and environmental damages that were not priced into the initial cost of fossil fuels. 

That’s roughly $11 billion a day.

Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy leads to a reduction in their use and also contributes to sustainable economic growth, job creation, better public health, and more equality, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world.

2. Triple investments in renewables

An estimated $4 trillion a year needs to be invested in renewable energy until 2030 in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Net zero is the term which describes achieving the balance between carbon emitted into the atmosphere and the carbon removed from it.

Investment in renewables will cost significantly less compared to subsidizing fossil fuels. The reduction of pollution and climate impact alone could save the world up to $4.2 trillion per year by 2030.

The funding is there, but commitment and accountability are needed, particularly from global financial systems. This includes multilateral development banks and other financial institutions, which must align their lending portfolios towards accelerating the renewable energy transition.

“Renewables are the only path to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities,” the UN chief said.

He has further urged “all governments to prepare energy transition plans” and encouraged “CEOs of all oil and gas companies to be part of the solution”.

3. Make renewable energy technology a global public good

For renewable energy technology to be a global public good, meaning available to all and not just to the wealthy, efforts must aim to dismantle roadblocks to knowledge-sharing and the transfer of technology, including intellectual property rights barriers.

Essential technologies such as battery storage systems allow energy from renewables to be stored and released when people, communities, and businesses need power.

When paired with renewable generators, battery storage technologies can provide both reliable and cheaper electricity to isolated grids and off-grid communities in remote locations, for example, in IndiaTanzania, and Vanuatu.

4. Improve global access to components and raw materials

A robust supply of renewable energy components and raw materials is a game changer. More widespread access to all the key components and materials is needed, from the minerals required for building wind turbines and electricity networks to elements for producing electric vehicles.

The UN’s International Seabed Authority is currently working with its Member States on how to exploit such abundant mineral resources in international waters as those crucial for manufacturing batteries while ensuring the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from deep-seabed-related activities.

It will take significant international coordination to expand and diversify manufacturing capacity globally. Greater investments are needed, including in people’s skills training, research and innovation, and incentives to build supply chains through sustainable practices that protect ecosystems.

5. Level the playing field for renewable energy technologies

While global cooperation and coordination is critical, domestic policy frameworks must urgently be reformed to streamline and fast-track renewable energy projects and catalyse private sector investments.

Technology, capacity, and funds for renewable energy transition exist, but policies and processes must be introduced to reduce market risks to both enable and incentivise investment, while simultaneously preventing bottlenecks and red tape.

Nationally determined contributions, or countries’ individual action plans to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts, must set renewable energy targets that align with the goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels.

To achieve this, it is estimated that the share of renewables in global electricity generation must grow from 29 per cent today to 60 per cent by 2030.

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Women of the Global South Are Key to the Energy Transition

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As a businesswoman who has dedicated my life to elevating opportunities for African women, I’ve seen how the historical exclusion of women – and especially women from Africa and the Global South – from international climate talks has derailed climate action.

Only by rectifying this systematic marginalisation of women can Africa fulfil its true potential as a leading global renewables powerhouse.

That is why I am celebrating attempts at the Africa Climate Summit, the first of its kind being held in my home country Kenya, to push back against entrenched gender inequalities.

If we fail to marry the energy transition with the goal of empowering women, the continent will not succeed in combating climate change.

In a ground-breaking move, the African Union Commission, which represents 55 African countries, signed a joint statement with the Government of Kenya and the UAE presidency of the upcoming COP28 UN talks in Dubai, endorsing the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency to stay within the 1.5C safe limit for global warming. The statement also calls for a “comprehensive systems change”, including the need to transform “food and health systems” while protecting nature and biodiversity.

Neither African governments nor previous COP presidencies have placed such wildly ambitious goals on the political agenda before. And although these goals have not yet taken the shape of a binding agreement, they are being supported with real action.

At the Africa Climate Summit, COP28 president Dr Sultan Al Jabr announced that the COP28 presidency itself will invest $4.5 billion to mobilise up to tens of billions more in African clean energy projects. According to Al Jabr, the point of the pledge is “to clearly demonstrate the commercial case for clean investment across this continent” and to create “a scalable model that can be replicated to help put Africa on a superhighway to low carbon growth”.

This is a huge milestone—with one major caveat: women must become linchpins in the continent’s new, evolving clean energy landscape.

That means overturning years of women being side-lined in climate talks and overlooked in governmental and institutional planning. Just 9% of energy project aid focuses on gender equality, and the UN’s clean energy goal (SDG7) omits gender entirely.

Currently women bear the worst impacts of climate change and energy poverty, accounting for 80% of food production and over 60% of agricultural employment in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet over three-quarters of total public climate-development finance in Africa this decade failed to consider gender at all.

And across Africa, women are marginalised from politics, education and employment. Previous UN climate talks have in effect discussed an ‘energy transition’ by and for men.

This gender-blindness is literally killing the planet. Companies with more women on their boards are more likely to lead them into policies aligned with the goal of capping climate change at 1.5C; and women around the world overall do more than men to change their behaviour to reduce emissions: so excluding them is an existential risk.

That’s why I’m celebrating how this week African nations are uniting for the first time not just to combat Africa’s climate threat, but also to highlight the gender inequalities preventing us from implementing real solutions.

As the First Lady of Kenya, Rachel Ruto, pointed out at the summit, only by equipping women with knowledge and skills can they be empowered to become champions of clean energy and sustainability. She convened a meeting of senior women leaders at the summit to focus on the critical importance of women to the success of the energy transition.

The lessons of the Africa Climate Summit must be taken all the way to the United Nations climate talks later this year. The goal of tripling renewable energy capacity, as the African Union Commission has now endorsed, is only one half of the equation. The other half is removing the barriers preventing women from racing toward this target. This must be enshrined in any global agreement – without it, not only Africa’s but the world’s clean energy transition will fail.

There are signs of progress. COP28 has already appointed women to senior roles representing the presidency, with Shamma Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of Community Development, appointed as Youth Climate Champion and Razan Al Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature appointed as the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion.

And just under half of COP28’s advisory committee are women, a big step-up compared to previous COPs which failed to include women at a senior role. The presidency has also called on all delegations to explicitly increase the role of women and young people in negotiations to make this “the most inclusive” COP.

Yet though these are big milestones, they are still baby steps. It’s time for world leaders to recognise that without empowering the world’s women on the frontlines of the battle against climate change, no global agreements will produce the change we need.

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