Never has regional cooperation, and more importantly global cooperation, been essential to the existential threat that the world faces, especially in light of rising global temperatures and rapidly evolving climate patterns that could threaten the core foundations of human existence. Climate change is a matter of scientific consensus given the indisputable scientific data, the observable environmental incidents/crises that have taken place, and the concerning changes in the delicate ecological balance that has guarded humanity’s prosperity for such a long time.
Emerging from COP26, public and private sector decision-makers around the world are reaffirming the urgent need to accelerate their decarbonization efforts. In 2015, an international treaty known as the Paris Agreement was signed by 196 countries aiming to keep mean global temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Achieving this objective will require a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Transition to a low-carbon future requires the direction of resources and effort toward existing energy efficiency solutions, emerging technologies like hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, and lower carbon and renewable energy alternatives. It focuses policies, investment, and action on sectors central to low- or zero-carbon growth, supporting the decarbonization of products, processes, services, technologies, and supply chains.
Global unity in the face of climate change has turned from being a dream into a reality, as the world begins to recognize the magnitude of this threat and react accordingly. Decarbonization has become a core concept in policy-making around the world with countries around the world seeking to create a more diverse energy mix that incorporates the extraction and production of fossil fuels in a more responsible less emissions-intensive manner, as well as the adoption of natural gas as a realistic and viable alternative that can power the energy transition forward, in addition to the use of renewables (such as hydrogen),. All over the world oil and gas companies accompanied by the relevant government authorities have been proactively taking measures to reduce emissions through the timely deployment of better technologies while enhancing energy efficiency and this is taking place at a faster rate than ever, with landmark private-public partnerships being a key enabler. Though the global effort towards a carbon-neutral future is impressive, it would need the combined potential of natural-gas-rich East Mediterranean markets which can help sustain the evolving needs of energy markets with an important environmentally responsible fuel as the energy transition continues to progress. The East Mediterranean is therefore a vital region not just for preserving the interests of global energy security, especially with the rising demand for natural gas, but it also has the potential to provide the momentum needed to push the energy transition forward.
The East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) was created to foster cooperation and collaboration across the East Med region, support the development of infrastructure for gas trade both within the region and with external markets, and unlock the full potential of the region’s vast natural gas resources.
During 2021 and 2022 heading COP 27, the EMGF started a resilient decarbonization journey outlining 4 pillars to support and accelerate gas value chain Decarbonization: Policies & regulations, Financing, Technology and capacity building tools for decarbonization to support and accelerate the East Med Region gas value chain decarbonization.
The financing pillar involves shortlisting priority investments according to a cost-benefit analysis as well as identifying their financing needs and financing mechanisms. The technologies pillar, assures the selection of the best compatible and applicable technologies that can cater to the East Med region specifically. While capacity building, entails pinpointing current capacity gaps and promoting workshops to enable the professional development of all concerned parties, this will go hand in hand with the policies/regulations pillar which aims to define regional decarbonization objectives, in accordance with each individual country’s strategic and energetic plan.
COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh elevated the voices of the Energy industry, during the decarbonization day which featured several sessions that launched initiatives including the Sharm El Sheikh Methane Reduction Roadmap and East Mediterranean Gas Forum decarbonization Report.
Although it’s an infant organization, EMGF developed the Decarbonization in the East Med Region report which assessed key options to decarbonize the gas value chain and identified specific actionable recommendations for harmonizing and developing a common unified regional East Med market promoting Decarbonization. The competitive edge that differentiates this report is that it reflects an integrated collaborative effort from governments, financial institutions, policymakers & different industrial sector organizations.
As a major force in climate action, the report identifies five key areas where EMGF can play a role in the decarbonization efforts of its member states’ natural gas value chain. First, it will act as a policy harmonizer by promoting a harmonized vision of emissions reduction regulations and policies. Second, it will be effective carbon certification by developing and managing a sub-regional Carbon Intensity Certification (CIC) mechanism. Third, the EMGF will be a reliable financial consultant by supporting member countries to prioritize decarbonization opportunities. Fourth, the EMGF can be an indispensable knowledge aggregator by enabling knowledge creation, retention, and transfer between members. Lastly, the EMGF also seeks to be a reliable technical advisor by encouraging effective and efficient decarbonization solutions that can be applied.
On a regional level, the EMGF’s decarbonization report can be summarized in two main goals, with Goal 1 being mostly concerned with each member country’s individual decarbonization plan and is advantageous in that it involves realizing quick wins. Goal 1 shall focus on decarbonization’s “low-hanging fruits” by paying particular attention to energy demand and efficiency (Lever 1) and methane abatement (Lever 2) within the next years. This can be accomplished through developing standards, targets, and incentives in the second year (Year 2) as well as setting policy requirements and requirements in the fourth year (Year 4), as part of the six-year plan. Low-carbon heat and power (Lever 3) and CCUS/DAC (Lever 4) will become the two main focuses from Year 6 to Year 8, up until 2030. Goal 2 will involve ensuring the establishment of a harmonized policy and regulatory framework for all EMGF member states. For Goal 2 in specific, the EMGF has diligently developed 6-8 years plans for harmonized regulatory and policy framework, which includes, CIC, carbon pricing, and Levers 3 & 4.
As previously set forth during COP27, it was important that the EMGF addresses its latest framework development with two key roles as an outcome of its Decarbonization Report. The first role, which is policy/regulatory harmonization, will be done through the use of a harmonized policy and regulatory framework for the decarbonization of natural gas value chain operations in the East Mediterranean region, to be presented to EMGF member countries for adoption. This will include the definition of strategies, priorities, and objectives, flaring reduction and abatement of CO2 and methane emissions policies, decarbonization and carbon intensity targets, and the adoption of common standards, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) protocols, timelines and required regulatory oversight and enforcement mechanisms at national and regional level. In addition, harmonization will also involve the drafting of attendant legal and regulatory instruments and policy statements.
The second role is the EMGF was to emphasize a carbon intensity certification mechanism, which involves a detailed proposal for the final design and implementation of an EMGF-based CIC mechanism to enhance the carbon competitiveness and marketability of the region’s natural gas production and exports.
The EMGF CIC has several objectives including ensuring independently certified adherence to or achievement of adopted CI target, boosting and enabling decarbonization and mitigating environmental impacts with climate change benefits, enhancing the perception and acceptance of-/preference for EMGF natural gas by countries that import, securing the necessary finances for the EMGF, and supporting the expansion of the EMGF CIC to the EU and other parts of the world.
In addition, the EMGF has identified five policy and regulatory objectives that were pinpointed to realize greenhouse gas abatement of natural gas produced by EMGF states, while cutting down on venting, flaring, fugitive, and combustion emissions. These objectives include( 1) harmonizing and determining aligned EMGF-wide industry MRV requirements for consistent estimation, measurement, and reporting of various types of GHG emissions derived from the natural gas value chain, (2) obligating energy efficiency improvement of natural gas operations through the adoption of efficiency targets and measures aimed at energy consumption abatement to reduce combustion emissions, (3) managing fugitive emissions by adopting unified LDAR principles, (4) developing and adopting policy and regulatory measures through the promotion of electrification and renewables to reduce harmful emissions, (5) reducing emissions from flaring and venting setting appropriate technical standards, permitting requirements and utilizing economic instruments.
The EMGF will continue to play a critical role in leading the future sustainability efforts for the East Mediterranean market and the only way anything significant can be accomplished is through combining the efforts and resources many countries have together.