The analysis by BCG’s Center for Energy Impact of global energy sector investment needed through 2030 to reach emissions reduction goals yielded the following key findings:
Capital Challenge. An $18 trillion capital gap exists between current commitments and the investments needed for alignment with net zero goals in 2030. Electricity and end-use sectors account for 90% of that shortfall.
Transition Barriers. Higher inflation and supply chain disruptions over the past 24 months have significantly hindered energy transition progress, stifling momentum and increasing costs.
Investor Behavior. Rising risks drive investors to seek higher returns, favoring businesses that prioritize capital discipline and cost efficiency even in high-growth renewables markets.
Sector Restructuring. Energy sector deals surpassed $320 billion in 2023, as companies optimize capital structures for energy transition investment. Oil and gas companies are leading with acquisitions, while utilities offload more assets to access capital and focus portfolios.
Strategic Adaptation. Companies should emphasize refining capital strategies, boosting efficiency, seeking innovative transactions and collaborations, bolstering financial foundations, and fortifying supply chains. These measures are essential to amplify investments, satisfy shareholders, and move toward net zero outcomes.
Government Role. Policy reforms, subsidies for low-carbon solutions, and expedited project approvals are essential for accelerating investment.
Navigating the path to a 2030 net-zero-aligned scenario reveals a staggering $18 trillion capital gap between current energy transition commitments and the required investment levels. Electricity and end-use sectors account for 90% of that shortfall. (See Exhibit 1.) With companies in the industry poised to drive 80% of planned energy transition investments through 2030, their strategies and execution plans are paramount.
However, their journey is riddled with hurdles. In the present climate, higher inflation, persistent supply chain pressures, and rising capital costs cause significant bottlenecks, slowing the pace of the energy transition. The setting is also reshaping investor behavior; companies face more demanding calls for higher returns, more disciplined capital management, and more efficient resource allocation, even within the high-growth renewables space.
The energy sector’s response has been proactive. A flurry of transaction activities signals a strategic push to fine-tune capital frameworks for the energy transition; so far in 2023, total energy sector deals exceed $320 billion. Oil and gas companies have emerged as dominant buyers, while utilities are using carve-outs to raise funds and recalibrate. As capital markets evolve, only projects that strike the right balance between risk and returns will receive sufficient funding. Regions where stakeholders effectively align policy directives and market mechanisms will be the prime recipients of future investments.
To flourish in the face of growing capital demands, energy companies must reassess portfolios, create innovative capital strategies and new partnerships, optimize their financial structures, and emphasize stringent cost and supply chain efficiencies. This report highlights the sector’s crucial capital allocation dynamics and the implications for competitive success in the energy transition.
Follow the Capital: Tracking the Investment Landscape of the Energy Transition
BCG’s Center for Energy Impact recently analyzed the investment plans of the world’s leading energy companies, governments, and private equity players, to compare real-world energy transition investments with net-zero scenario benchmarks.
The study reveals two major trends. One is that energy companies and governments aim to inject an impressive $19 trillion into the energy transition over the next seven years. This includes nearly $2 trillion in new government spending, spurred by US and European legislative initiatives. Company targets suggest a 15% increase in energy expenditures between 2023 and 2027, with an increasing share allocated to low-carbon investments. (See Exhibit 2.)
Yet the shadows of the war in Ukraine loom large. The repercussions of the conflict, marked by skyrocketing commodity prices in 2022 and 2023, have tightened capital availability, particularly for European utilities—the linchpins of European decarbonization efforts. These financial headwinds, coupled with higher inflation and capital costs, have curbed enthusiasm for new investments.
The Pivotal Role of Policymakers in Accelerating Transition Investment
There is an urgent need for global policymakers to address existing challenges and ensure a fair and efficient shift to low-carbon energy. Energy transition investments are most effective in regions where market structures and policy guidelines align to produce favorable risk-to-reward profiles for capital.
BCG’s Blueprint for the Energy Transition outlines six essential steps for public sector leaders to bridge the investment gap and support the flow of capital into transition projects. These steps include electricity market modifications to produce adequate pricing signals for new investments; faster approval processes for projects, particularly grid expansions; enlarged green investment subsidies through incentives and research grants; and revised liability guidelines to enhance investor confidence.
Strategic Imperatives: Shaping the Energy Transition Through Corporate Action
The energy sector stands out for its intense capital demands, marked by a capital intensity rate that is more than double that of other industries. Accounting for approximately one-third of the world’s yearly capex, it encompasses diverse peer groups, segments, and stakeholder interests. Yet organizations throughout the sector share a mission to amplify investments, satisfy shareholders, and navigate toward net zero outcomes.
To accelerate the energy transition, every company in this sector should treat six actions as mandatory:
Refine capital allocation. Evaluate and enhance current allocation processes to weigh trade-offs between traditional investments and low-carbon alternatives, ensuring a comprehensive approach to decision making. Look for processes that need revamping. In particular, low-carbon investments are much more sensitive to cost-of-capital increases than traditional energy sector investments. Improved cost-of-capital assessments across global portfolios would paint a more detailed picture of favorable assets.
Focus on efficiency. Emphasize cost and capital efficiency in energy transition investments. Such an approach may entail completely transforming the way a company runs major capital projects and operations. For example, companies are evaluating the factory model that has successfully reduced costs in the US shale sector for use in large-scale renewables and other low-carbon settings.
Explore strategic M&A and divestitures. Mergers and acquisitions may work for some companies, while others may benefit from divestments that enable them to concentrate their resources more effectively.
Forge new partnerships. Explore alternative deal structures such as minority shareholdings, joint ventures, strategic partnerships, and corporate venturing. These structures can be complex, but they offer strategic flexibility that is essential for navigating capital constraints in certain areas of the energy sector. They also promote specific collaborations to advance decarbonization efforts.
Strengthen the balance sheet. A volatile market forces companies to adopt robust financial strategies. The disparity in valuations between US oil and gas majors and their European counterparts highlights the importance of financial resilience, as does the surge in total shareholder returns by more debt-averse utilities in 2023.
Stress-test the supply chain. It is crucial to rigorously evaluate supply chains for cost efficiency, carbon intensity, and resilience. Reevaluating supplier relationships and identifying dependencies can cut costs and minimize risks.
The energy transition’s immense capital demands underscore the need for companies and policymakers to adopt robust and innovative approaches. As the world advances toward its net zero goal, harmonizing investment strategies with collaborative solutions is paramount. Although the energy sector is already making strides, consistent policy support and forward-thinking financial maneuvers are crucial to bridging the existing gaps and ensuring an ordered, equitable, and sustainable shift to a greener future.
At the COP27 summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, an agreement to establish a loss and damage fund was hailed as a major breakthrough on one of the trickiest topics in the UN climate change negotiations. In an otherwise frustrating conference, this decision in November 2022 acknowledged the help that poorer and low-emitting countries in particular need to deal with the consequences of climate change – and, tentatively, who ought to pay.
This following year has seen more extreme weather records broken. Torrential rains created flooding which swept away an entire city in Libya, while wildfires razed swathes of Canada, Greece and the Hawaiian island of Maui.
As these events become routine worldwide, the case grows for an effective fund that can be set up quickly and help those most vulnerable to climate change. But after a year of talks, the fund has, so far, failed to materialise in the way that developing countries had hoped.
I’m writing a book on UN governance of loss and damage, and have been following the negotiations since 2013. Here’s what happened after the negotiators went home and what to watch out for when they return, this time at COP28 in Dubai.
Many questions were raised and left unresolved in Sharm El-Sheikh. Among them: who will pay into this new fund? Where will it sit? Who will have power over it? And who will have access to the funding (and who won’t)?
A transitional committee with 14 developing country members and 10 developed country members was appointed by the UN to debate these questions after COP27. The committee has met regularly over the last year, but at its fourth meeting at the end of October – scheduled as the last session – important questions surrounding the fund, such as who should host and administer it, remained. Discussions broke down without an agreement.
In early November, less than a month before COP28, a hastily arranged fifth meeting presented committee members with a text cobbled together by the two co-chairs from South Africa and Finland as a take-it-or-leave-it agreement. Developing countries agreed to having the fund hosted by the World Bank for an interim period, despite reservations.
Developed countries also objected to the final text. The US wanted to add the adjective “voluntary” to any mention of contributions to the fund. Others argued that the pool of contributors to the fund should be widened to include some developing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, and also private sources of finance. These objections were noted but the text was adopted without them.
These recommendations must now be signed off at COP28, which begins on November 30. With almost 200 countries having to reach agreement on these arrangements and dissatisfaction widespread, the process isn’t likely to be straightforward.
The world’s bank?
Developing countries have been sceptical of the World Bank as a potential host of the fund for several reasons.
Many delegates worry about the bank’s reputation, including the dominance of developed country donors, its emphasis on providing loans rather than grants, and the lack of climate-savviness in the bank’s operations. These concerns are likely to reemerge in Dubai.
The US is the biggest shareholder in the World Bank and traditionally, the bank’s president has been a US citizen nominated by Washington. Small-island developing states (among the most vulnerable to climate change due to sea-level rise) have argued for moving the fund away from a donor-recipient model, with all their usual power imbalances, towards a partnership founded on a shared commitment to protecting the planet.
This will require partial or total reform of the World Bank – and some argue this is already happening under its new president. But hosting the fund within the bank would still give donor countries disproportionate influence, despite recommendations by the transitional committee that the fund’s governing board be composed of a majority of developing country members.
High overhead costs are another concern. One board member of another fund hosted by the World Bank has suggested that the administrative fees the bank charges are rising and absorbing a larger share of aid. This could mean that, for every US$100 billion offered to countries and communities reeling from disaster, the World Bank will keep $US1.5 billion. This will be hard for an institution still funding the climate-wrecking oil and gas industry to justify.
The types of finance made available by the fund will need to be at odds with the bank’s traditional mode of loan financing, by offering grants and other forms of highly concessional lending. Developing countries have consistently argued that loss and damage funding should not increase a developing country’s debt burden.
The agreed text says the loss and damage fund will “invite financial contributions”, with developed countries expected to “take the lead”. Developing countries want developed nations (as the largest historical emitters) to provide funding, but rich nations have pushed back against any notion that they have an obligation to pay.
One thing you’re unlikely to hear at COP28 is “compensation”. While newspaper editors love headlines about reparations, liability and compensation when reporting on loss and damage, and a rise in climate litigation is making governments and polluting companies nervous, this language is still totally absent in discussion of the issue in the negotiations.
In fact, research has shown that mentions of compensation in state submissions to the UN declined dramatically after the establishment of the mechanism on loss and damage in 2013. The fine print of the 2015 Paris Agreement noted that loss and damage was “not a basis for liability or compensation”.
I have noticed a taboo emerging around the term within the COP process. Instead, countries are increasingly opting for language such as “solidarity” as the basis for finance. These word choices show where power lies.
All of this is to sound a note of caution going into COP28. Major agreements on loss and damage have historically not lived up to their promises due to bureaucratic forum-shifting (moving topics to venues outside of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), delays, and under-resourcing. The adaptation fund was established in 2001 but only approved its first funding in 2010.
How is the urgent need for support among vulnerable communities and countries going to be met when the pace of progress within the climate change negotiations is glacial at best, and tends to be particularly slow and unambitious on loss and damage finance?
At COP28, making the loss and damage fund real is a litmus test for the legitimacy of the entire climate change negotiation regime.
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The conflict began in the early morning of October 7 2023 when armed Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack against Israel, killing at least 1,400 Israelis and taking more than 200 civilians hostage.
Israel responded to this attack by launching an assault on Gaza beginning with a relentless aerial bombardment and continuing now with a ground offensive. According to the Gaza health ministry, at least 10,000 people – mainly civilians – have been killed in Gaza in the month since the conflict began, including 4,100 children.
A further 25,000 people have been injured and hundreds of thousands have been displaced within the Gaza Strip, unable to leave because of the blockade imposed by Israel.
Israel’s massive bombing campaign has unsurprisingly led to a disastrous humanitarian situation. The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, has described the situation in Gaza as a “godawful nightmare”.
This has led the UN and other countries to pressure Israel for a “pause” in the fighting to at least provide temporary humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza.
A number of resolutions calling for a ceasefire or some form of truce have been raised in the UN security council, but on each occasion they have been vetoed by one or more of the permanent members. A non-binding resolution passed the UN general assembly on October 27, but this has been ignored by the Israeli government.
A humanitarian pause
Gaza has no access to basic humanitarian aid due to the siege and blockade that Israel has inflicted on the strip. Even before the beginning of the war, Gaza had been subject to a 16-year blockade after Hamas took political control of the strip in June 2007.
After the October 7 Hamas attack, the Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” on Gaza, which included cutting off supplies of electricity, food, water and gas. These shortages have put the country’s health system at risk – hospitals are now being run on power from electric generators and with severe shortages of vital medical supplies.
According to the UN, a humanitarian pause is defined as “a temporary cessation of hostilities purely for humanitarian purposes”. It is carried out for a certain period of time and in a specific geographic location.
The pause allows civilians trapped in conflict areas to safely flee, access assistance or receive medical treatment. It also enables the passage of essential supplies such as food, fuel and medicines.
An ambulance carries an injured Palestinian evacuee to a hostpial in Egypt after passing the Rafah crossing from Gaza, November 1. EPA-EFE/Khaled Elfiqi
Nonetheless, some argue that using a humanitarian pause to provide a temporary halt in the bombing of Gaza is not enough. In a report calling for a general ceasefire, Oxfam said its experience is that such pauses can even put civilians at a greater risk, as there is usually less clarity involved about safe zones and the duration of pauses.
“Rumours and misinformation spreads that this road or that ‘safe zone’ has been declared a demilitarised area, but that is often not true, leaving people walking into a warzone believing it is safe,” the report said. At the beginning of the war, routes that were thought to have been designated safe passages for evacuation from Gaza were bombed.
As a result, the only true humanitarian solution that appears ideal is a complete ceasefire.
A ceasefire: roadmap for an end to hostilities
A ceasefire is a political process rather than simply a humanitarian one. It urges parties to come together to find a political solution to the conflict.
It is meant to a be a longer-term process than a “pause” and should apply to the entire geographical area of the conflict. In this case, it would mean the whole of Gaza strip but also all others affected by the conflict such as the south of Lebanon where Israeli troops are battling with Hezbollah.
In the context of Gaza, a ceasefire would mean a complete stop of fighting on all sides, and the eventual release or exchange of hostages. It would not only mean the end of the bombardment of Gaza, but would also obligate Hamas to stop its attacks on Israel.
It is important to note that, like a pause, a ceasefire is not a permanent peace agreement. That said, the aim would be to create the conditions for a permanent settlement.
Meanwhile, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues. AP Photo/Hatem Ali
Reaching a ceasefire would likely require the involvement of a third party mediator, such as the US, Qatar or Iran.
In the previous Hamas-Israel war in 2021, both parties eventually managed to reach a ceasefire after 11 days of destruction which left more than 200 people dead. In that conflict, Egypt played a major role as a mediator.
Since the latest conflict began on October 7, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has resisted all calls for a humanitarian pause and a ceasefire.
But the US and other allies of Israel continue to press Netanyahu for at least a pause in Israel’s assault. He insists that while “little pauses” might be arranged to allow for the exit of hostages or to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid, a longer halt in hostilities is not possible until all hostages taken by Hamas are released. And so the killing continues
The above-featured image is for illustration and is to Credit: Sahara Forest Project
Long-term satellite data shows a significant cooling effect of vegetation on land surface temperature.
The searing heat of the Arabian Peninsula translates to a population vulnerable to heat stress. As temperatures continue to rise, effective strategies are urgently needed to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change in the region.
A promising approach is the greening of dry areas, which has been shown to modify the surface climate in several regions. Monitoring the impact of vegetation on surface temperature is important, as KAUST climatologist Matteo Zampieri explains.
“As vegetation absorbs more solar energy compared to the desert, it reduces the reflectivity (albedo) of the land surface. This in turn increases the temperature of the land surface in water limited areas. So, the balance between increased evapotranspiration and reduced albedo compared to the bare soil determines the outcome of greening efforts,” he says.
“The outcomes may vary, based on the availability of water for plants as well as specific physiological processes of drought adapted plant species. While some instances of desert greening may lead to surface cooling, others can actually result in surface warming,” Zampieri warns.
To investigate the effects of managed vegetation, the researchers used satellite data to compare the surface temperature differences between planted areas and bare soil at five sites representing Saudi Arabia’s main agricultural regions. They also used a site at Al-Qirw with a mix of vegetation maintained by pivot irrigation. They analyzed the data at Al-Qirw, where temperature differences between vegetated and bare soil are not influenced by differences in elevation.
The satellite data were used to generate statistics on a daily basis, which showed the changes in average temperature over green areas and the effect of vegetation on temperature variability.
A normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was used as an indicator of the presence and vigor of vegetation and the land surface temperature (LST) during day and night was used to estimate the effects of vegetation on the surface climate.
At Al-Qirw, the annual mean LST differed considerably between the planted areas and bare soil. Between 2010 and 2017, the daytime LST was about 4 degrees Celsius cooler inside the area covered by vegetation compared to the surrounding bare soil.
On hotter days, vegetation provides an extra cooling effect. These results corresponded with an increase in the NDVI in the vegetated area. After 2017, the NDVI suddenly decreased and the cooling effect in Al-Qirw vanished, possibly related to water management sustainability.
Leader of the research team KAUST’s Ibrahim Hoteit says the study supports other evidence that establishing vegetation and effective water management practices mitigates high temperatures in arid regions.
“Our study shows that managed vegetation plays a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, especially heat waves,” he says.
“However, it also highlights the importance of sustainability factors because the collapse of vegetation can diminish the cooling effect and accelerate local warming trends,” he warns.
Zampieri, M., Alkama, R., Luong, T., Ashok, K. & Hoteit, I. Managing vegetation for stronger cooling efficiency during hot days in the Arabian Peninsula. Ecological Indicators154, 110789 (2023).| article.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matteo Zampieri, Senior Researcher
In Ibrahim Hoteit‘s Red Sea Modeling and Prediction Group, Matteo is a principal investigator at the Climate Change Center (CCC) of KAUST where he coordinates the development of the sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasting systems and the investigations related to the Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives.
The Middle East’s expertise in handling heat could be of benefit worldwide, writes Aly Abousabaa, director general of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and CGIAR’s regional director for Central and West Asia and North Africa.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the driest in the world and home to four of the five most water-stressed countries on the planet. But its legacy as the cradle of agriculture also makes it an increasingly valuable source of global wisdom and innovation for adapting food systems for hotter, drier climates – a challenge that lies ahead for a growing number of countries.
Thanks to its “fertile crescent”, a richly biodiverse area in the Middle East, the region has witnessed more than 10,000 years of agricultural transformation and continues to be at the forefront of dryland farming.
With rising temperatures and desertification spreading around the globe, this year’s COP28 climate talks in Dubai (30 November-12 December) offer a timely opportunity to learn from the region’s vast experience and the scientific solutions that are enabling desert farming against the odds.
What MENA lacks in freshwater, it makes up for in resilient, ancient plant and animal species and millennia of agricultural ingenuity.
The region’s extraordinary agricultural heritage and harsh conditions mean it remains a treasure trove of “crop wild relatives” – original food plant species that have evolved over thousands of years to survive heat, water stress and poor soil.
“Governments, policymakers and climate negotiators at COP28 must heed the lessons of the MENA region to enshrine food security in a hotter, drier world.”
Aly Abousabaa, director general, ICARDA
For scientists looking for plant genetic traits that can withstand the kinds of climate extremes now occurring in countries such as Australia, Canada, Spain and the US, MENA is a hotbed of source material from which to develop hardier, more climate tolerant crops.
For example, CGIAR recently released six new drought tolerant varieties of barley and durum wheat using samples stored at a crop genebank managed by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Morocco.
Farmer Aziz el Kaissi conducts a durum wheat trial in Ait Bouhou, Morocco, as part of an ICARDA project to collect data on improved crop varieties. Photo: Michael Major/Crop Trust.
CGIAR’s climate-smart crops offer a vital buffer against the impact of drought, which last year reduced wheat production by around 70 per cent in Morocco, where conditions were so harsh the episode was named “the drought of the century”.
ICARDA has released about 880 new crop varieties in the last 40 years, generating annual benefits worth over US$850 million – and this goes well beyond the MENA region. In the last five years, more than 120 climate-resilient cereal and legume crops have been grown in more than 20 countries.
CGIAR’s heat-resilient wheat varieties, derived from the MENA region’s crop wild relatives, increased yields by up to 24 per cent when tested on sites in Ethiopia, Lebanon, Morocco and Senegal.
Alongside breeding hardier crops, agricultural researchers in the region have also developed cutting-edge early warning systems to help MENA countries and other water-stressed nations to better forecast and anticipate droughts.
Scientists working on the MENAdrought project in collaboration with governments in Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco, have built country-specific systems which predict the likelihood of drought conditions over the next one to three months. This allows farmers and local authorities to manage water resources more effectively and make better-informed planting decisions.
A drought index has already been adopted to show where stressed conditions exist and trigger actions to help, and the project has expanded to Tunisia, with interest from other MENA countries.
The region also offers a compelling example of how traditional knowledge and practices can be harnessed to bolster food security, accelerated through local and regional collaboration.
Techniques that have improved productivity and reversed desertification include water management innovation, green energy integration, vertical farming, conservation agriculture and deep learning through satellite observation.
A novel technique is the use of an ancient practice known as “Marab”, which involves creating areas of relatively flat land that slows water flow after rainfall, allowing more moisture retention and less degradation.
Reseeding indigenous range species, including grasses and legumes with reduced water needs, and controlling the grazing of livestock have also been shown to contribute to rangeland rehabilitation. Using this technology in Jordan meant barley production increased from 0.34 to 8.37 tonnes per hectare and the yields became more reliable due to a lesser dependence on unpredictable rainfall.
While the world races to limit global temperature rises, climate change is already under way with now inevitable consequences both in MENA and beyond.
As many more countries face hotter and drier conditions, the MENA region is a valuable test case for the adaptive capacity of agriculture. Many of the innovations developed in the Middle East and North Africa will become instrumental to farming in a climate emergency.
Governments, policymakers and climate negotiators at COP28 must heed the lessons of the MENA region to enshrine food security in a hotter, drier world.
ICARDA researches and develops climate-smart agri-innovations to generate resilient livelihoods for dryland farmers suffering a climate crisis.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Global desk.
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