COP28 reinforces critical role of gas in the energy transition

– by Paul Everingham

The final text adopted by delegates at COP28 Climate Change Conference serves to reinforce the role of natural gas and LNG in the global energy transition.

In particular, the reference to “[Recognition] that transitional fuels can play a role in facilitating the energy transition while ensuring energy security” is a strong pointer to the ability of gas/LNG to provide highly reliable electricity generation as a much lower-emission alternative to coal.

Equally a reference to “accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power” makes it clear that gas and LNG will be essential to an orderly and just energy transition over coming decades, particularly for emerging economies like many in Asia Pacific.

As it currently stands, coal remains the dominant source of electricity across much of Asia, including three of the world’s four most populated countries in India, China and Indonesia.

Gas, which produces up to 60 per cent fewer emissions than coal in electricity generation, can provide these nations with the dependable baseload power they need as they move away from coal and grow investments in renewables.

Energy transition is a process that will take place over decades and the final text from COP28 should be a signal to gas-producing nations to advance projects that will meet global demand for the 2030s and beyond.

COP28 delegates after the agreement on the final text. Photo via UN Climate Change

It was also encouraging to see the COP28 text make reference to the acceleration of “carbon capture and storage” (CCUS).

CCUS is a technology that can provide emissions reductions in power generation even as countries strive to meet rapidly rising energy demand, and which will support decarbonisation of hard-to-abate industries such as steelmaking and chemical manufacturing.

All practical pathways to global net zero involve considerable scaling up of CCUS. The technology is especially vital for Asia Pacific, where nations are seeking to strike a complex balance between much-needed economic growth and progress on climate targets.

The critical nature of CCUS to our region is why ANGEA recently launched a flagship Asia Pacific Cross Border Carbon Accreditation Study, which will design a regional framework to facilitate movement of captured CO2 between nations for storage.

The Global Stocktake final text features a variety of other recommendations and details that align with the work being undertaken by ANGEA and its member companies.

A commitment to improving energy efficiency will help countries optimise energy security and manage their emissions.

Identification and mitigation of methane emissions has been and will continue to be a very strong focus for the oil and gas industry.

Meanwhile, “accelerating low-carbon hydrogen production” is reflective of the ongoing efforts of ANGEA member companies to develop the world’s low-emission fuels of the future (ammonia is another part of this mix).

Signatories to the Global Stocktake’s final text have also committed to tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Increasing investment in renewable energy will clearly make a considerable contribution to reducing emissions but it should be noted that intermittency issues associated with renewables bring challenges for energy reliability.

This is particularly the case for emerging economies, where electricity grid infrastructure might not be as well-placed to integrate large-scale renewables as other parts of the world.

In this context, availability of a sufficient supply of affordable natural gas and LNG becomes even more essential to ensuring energy security while also supporting credible energy transition.

It’s pleasing to see the final text of COP28 reinforce this.

Paul Everingham is the inaugural CEO of the Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association (ANGEA), which works with governments, society and industry throughout Asia to build effective and integrated energy policies that meet each country’s climate objectives.