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MENA Climate Week 2023: Advancing a regional approach to the climate challenge

October 19, 2023

As MENA Climate week in Saudi Arabia concludes and COP28 in the UAE approaches, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is positioned to take on a leadership role in driving the solutions we need to transform our energy system. The MENA region is home to one of the world’s largest energy hubs, as well as host to several actors with significant financial resources, technical know-how, and influence in global energy markets. At the same time, there is widespread inequality in the region with many MENA countries particularly vulnerable to growing climate impacts. These factors converge to underscore both the opportunity and responsibility the region has to take a leadership role in efforts to address climate change and decarbonize the global energy system. 

Amidst that backdrop, CATF’s delegation of regional experts attended 2023 MENA Climate Week in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Here are some key takeaways from our delegation.

Key takeaways from 2023 MENA Climate Week on the road to COP28 

  • We must create a shared global vision among governments, civil society, and industry that prepares for a range of energy futures, and the MENA region is ready to meet the challenge.  
  • Many actors in the MENA region have recognized the importance of addressing methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, with 10 countries across the region joining the Global Methane Pledge and other MENA actors acknowledging the positive economic returns of methane mitigation, with either near-zero or minimal costs. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have taken first steps to cut emissions by banning the routine flaring of methane and other gases, and MENA governments are now being encouraged to put in place appropriate regulatory frameworks and financing plans to make sure there is adequate methane mitigation investment across the region. 
  • There is a pressing need to deliver carbon capture storage technologies, 24/7/365 clean electricity, nuclear energy, and low-carbon fuels technologies at scale around the world, and the MENA region is poised to play a key role in advancing these innovative solutions. 
  • It is imperative that we meet the complex challenges across funding, energy security, policy and regulation, as well as technical realities to create incremental, realistic steps for long-term transformation. The MENA region in particular can become a center for materials and minerals as well as a testing ground for clean tech innovation and a financier of global clean tech deployment.

Key Clean Air Task Force events at MENA Climate Week

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at MENA Climate Week 

MENA Climate Week featured several important events aimed at discussing viable opportunities to advance carbon capture and other critical technologies in the MENA region. CATF experts pushed for clean energy innovation and investment in technologies like carbon capture storage, nuclear energy, and methane mitigation, while working to establish the regulatory and policy frameworks needed to advance decarbonization in the region.  

Olivia Azadegan, CATF’s MENA Energy Transition Director, took part as the moderator for the panel “Creating the Business Case for Carbon Management Through Policy Action,” clarifying what countries, particularly in the MENA region, might learn from the U.S. and U.K. experience with developing carbon management business models and regulatory frameworks. 

Alongside IEF and AEON collective, CATF co-hosted a special roundtable with thought leaders to review potential breakthroughs and opportunities for collaboration between governments, civil society, and industries to achieve midcentury net-zero greenhouse gas emission targets and deliver on shared sustainable development goals this decade. The roundtable also included leaders from Ministries of Energy in the region and other governmental entities, embassies, climate, and clean energy organizations, National Oil Companies (NOCs), International Oil Companies (IOCs), and academia. 

CATF also explored opportunities for carbon capture to help drive deep decarbonization in the region during the “CCUS Climate Technology: Driving Decarbonisation in Cement and Steel” event. CATF’s Azadegan indicated that carbon capture is the only solution we currently have to fully decarbonize difficult to electrify industries like cement and steel, which are essential building blocks of modern society. She made clear that to meet the challenges of decarbonizing these sectors, it will take rapid growth and deployment of carbon management projects and a significant build out of carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructure, particularly for countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have set goals of achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2060 and 2050 respectively.   

Methane Mitigation at MENA Climate Week 

For the oil and gas sectors, methane and flaring reductions must be a cornerstone of decarbonization initiatives. In the panel “Reducing Methane Emissions in the Oil and Gas Value Chain” Azadegan called on signatories to set a 0.2 percent upstream methane intensity target by 2030 at minimum, as well as commit to zero routine flaring by 2030, and to conduct annual reporting on their progress towards these objectives. She highlighted the importance of data transparency, and representation of civil society, industry, and government in the process. 

Launch of Net-Zero Knowledge Consortium 

CATF also joined the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, Khalifa University and the UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators (UICCA) for the public launch of Net-Zero Knowledge Consortium (NKC). This is a multinational initiative that will inform and invigorate the Net Zero Producers Forum (NPF), a government initiative comprising six nations—the United States of America, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, State of Qatar, Kingdom of Norway, United Arab Emirates, and Canada. The NPF is designed to foster pragmatic net-zero emission strategies for major oil and gas producers. The NKC is composed of independent, evidence-based, analytic organizations from each member nation, supported by and including other organizations from around the world. It’s poised to provide recommendations on how NPF countries can: 

  • Become world leaders in advancing the circular carbon economy approach 
  • Deploy methane abatement solutions 
  • Develop and deploy clean-energy and carbon capture and storage technologies 
  • Diversify their economies away from reliance on hydrocarbon revenues 
  • Take measures in line with each country’s national circumstances 

From MENA Climate Week to COP28 

MENA Climate Week provided an important platform for major stakeholders in and outside of the region to discuss how MENA stakeholders can create and adopt a shared regional climate vision that advances decarbonization technologies and reduces greenhouse gas emissions at scale. Preceding a highly anticipated COP28 in Dubai, UAE, this climate week presented an opportunity to promote a more globally conscious, region-centric approach to decarbonization that is informed by the realities of our global energy system and broader economy. The stage is now set for continued leadership at COP28, where the UAE will host the world’s largest annual climate summit, with all eyes on how the region will embody a leadership role.

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