RIYADH: As the world steadily progresses on its energy transition journey, sustainability must not be the only item on the agenda, a top official at the World Economic Forum has insisted.
During an interview with Arab News, Roberto Bocca, head of energy and materials and a member of the executive committee at the organization, said ensuring energy security is also essential as the world switches from traditional fuels to renewables.
“On top of sustainability, you have to think also about biodiversity, you have to think of the other dimension of sustainability. That is one thing that needs to be achieved. The other is universal energy access. And the third one is the energy security. That is much more difficult to quantify, but it is clearly one element that is important,” said Bocca.
The official noted that the world will need investments running into the trillions of dollars in the future to ensure a smooth energy transition.
He also added that the governments will face challenges in the supply of not just oil and gas but also renewables as demand will be sky-high in the coming years.
“The amount of investment that is needed is really huge. And, we are talking about trillions of investments in years and years to come. And, part of the challenge to achieve (energy transition) is that the demand keeps increasing. We are talking about having an economy that is about double what it is today in terms of GDP (gross domestic product),” Bocca said.
He added: “Let’s say in 2050, we have about double the economy. So, it is really challenging, if we think that we have to have an energy system that is double the one of today, in a world that is much more contained when it comes to resources. And when we talk about resources, we are not talking all about oil and gas or coal. I am talking also about renewables because there is a challenge in getting all materials that are needed.”
According to Bocca, a complete switch from fossil fuels to renewables is totally unrealistic, and he added that the real problem is not with traditional energy sources, but carbon emissions from those commodities.
“So, we are fighting carbon emission. We are not fighting any type of energy. I would argue saying all types of energy will be needed. The energy mix of the future is very diversified because anyway, there will be more demand. So, there would be probably nuclear, there would be probably oil, probably gas, maybe still some coal, and definitely renewable. But all of these are important, (and) that we remove as much as possible the emissions because that is the problem for climate,” he noted.
The official further added that technology is one of the enablers as the world sails toward a green and sustainable future.
According to Bocca, wise use of advanced technologies like carbon capture and storage could help reduce emissions as a whole.
When asked about whether nations have set realistic targets for stopping carbon emissions, Bocca said that the materialization of net-zero targets set by various countries will be directly dependent on concrete actions, and he lauded companies like Saudi Arabian Oil Co. for working hard to achieve their goals on time.
“The feasibility depends on the action. So, definitely, there are some countries that are putting in place plans, and all the companies are putting in place plans. To move from a commitment to a result, you need those plans. You need concrete action to happen,” said Bocca.
He added: “Some of the executives talking to me from Saudi Aramco, they have a clear plan for 2050 to be net-zero. And as an oil company itself, the biggest company in the world, more than 10 percent of oil production in the world, that is a great commitment. And knowing Saudi Aramco, it will happen, and if anything, maybe even earlier, knowing the capacity and the capability they have of implementing and executing the plans.”
During a press conference in March, Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told Arab News the energy transition will happen only if the world ensures affordability, security of supplies and sustainability.
Bocca went on to say that Saudi Arabia’s actions toward sustainability could be a role model for other nations in the world.
“What I heard, what I have seen, and what I have discussed, I think definitely, the ambition level in Saudi is really very high, and the institutional capacity is very high too. So, hopefully, it will be an example for the rest of the world,” he noted.
Bocca noted that some countries are lagging behind in the energy transition journey, and they need more plans to be executed and acted upon efficiently.
He added that the World Economic Forum is coming up with an index on June 26 which will showcase all the progress made by countries in the sustainability journey.
Bocca also noted that public-private collaboration is very much needed to achieve net-zero targets, and if it is not happening, it will be difficult to achieve these transition goals.
“What we have to do is really work together. If we do not work as a team, we will never achieve these net-zero (targets) by 2050, because you know, it requires a lot of collaboration; first step, public-private collaboration,” he concluded.