The UN’s perspective: Natural gas on the international stage

Alexandra Marie Ferraro's picture
Alexandra Marie Ferraro, Energy Analyst, Guest Reporter
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In the UN keynote address at the 30th European Autumn Gas Conference last week, Scott Foster, Director of the Sustainable Energy Division at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), emphasized the crucial role natural gas will play as the world strives for increasingly sustainable energy mixes.

In September, member states of the UN agreed to adopt 16 Sustainable Development Goals with targets for health, education, economic growth, agriculture, and energy, among others. “Energy underpins all the Sustainable Development Goals,” Mr. Foster stressed. SDG 7 has been dedicated entirely to energy; it seeks to double, for example, the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 as well as ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services.

At the upcoming COP21 in Paris, Mr. Foster vowed energy will also be at the heart of the discussion. “There is no plausible scenario where fossil fuels do no contribute to the energy mix, even under the 2 Degree scenario,” Mr. Foster urged the gas industry to engage in a dialogue with other parties. Sustainable energy, according to him, is about securing access to the energy necessary in order to develop sustainably. The natural gas industry is therefore not only included, but expected at the table.

The UNECE is already coordinating conversation between the gas industry and UN member states. “This is to make sure we are asking and answering the right questions,” Mr. Foster explains, “We now have a structure in place for this at the UNECE.” In addition to these efforts, the UNECE is developing best practice guidance on LNG and looking to remove obstacles of gas into transport in the hopes of encouraging greater uptake of gas.

The director called attention to Europe’s undermined potential in the natural gas sector, “[Europe] should be the most competitive economic entity on the planet, but we let arguments and disputes get in the way of economic and technical efficiency of the system.” Mr. Foster appealed to industry leaders demonstrating that in fact all of Europe geographically fits in the space between South Africa and Antarctica. Dialogue amongst all parties is critical to ensuring energy security and mutually beneficial economic interdependence Mr. Foster elaborated.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Foster proposed that we re-think today’s energy model and challenged EAGC attendees to envision a service-oriented gas industry. “To what extent are we stuck in the model of yesterday?” Mr. Foster asked. He ventured to add that we need a service-oriented implementation, “Today we consume the lighting, the heating, etc., not the MWh.” With upcoming international dialogues and promising plans, the gas industry may indeed be well poised to help usher in a sustainable energy future. Will the gas industry take its place at the international roundtable?

What is your view? As Scott Foster asked EAGC attendees, “To what extent are we stuck in the model of yesterday?” Leave your comments below.

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