Economist Intelligence has projected in its latest 2023 Energy Outlook report that global energy consumption will grow by just 1.3 per cent in 2023, amid a slowing economy and high energy prices.
Waning gas supplies and extreme weather conditions will force many countries to fall back on fossil fuels, ultimately delaying the green energy transition.
These anticipated setbacks, despite today's sophisticated technology and innovations, advanced research and development and trillions of dollars pumped into the sector annually, will mean a waste of investment if nothing is done to inform wiser energy conversations globally.
Middle East Energy Dubai is one of the high-level avenues that open such conversations and paves the way for peers to deliberate on the tough decisions that need to be made to secure the future.
The buzz in the energy sector is now in the Middle East and Africa, where the 20,000 energy professionals who assemble at the Dubai World Trade Centre for the 48th edition of this conference will have to answer tough questions around sustainability.
The conference comes in between the COP27 and COP28 summits that are bringing the world to our region, showing its real progress in the energy transition.
It comes in the wake of Davos 2023, which strongly conveyed the message that energy transition, climate crisis, and food security are inextricably linked.
For the past 150 years or so, we have relied heavily on coal, oil and other fossil fuels to power everything from light bulbs to cars to factories.
Fossil fuels are embedded in nearly everything we do, and as a result, the greenhouse gases released from the burning of those fuels have reached historically high levels.
Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions.
The science is clear: To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, emissions need to be reduced by almost half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
With these thresholds approaching quickly, we have no option but to put the latest technology and innovations to use and develop strict parameters to reduce the effects of climate change.
This, coupled with strategic decision-making and structured and collaborative private-public sector initiatives, will go a long way toward taking us closer to the UN's sustainable development goals.
Tied to climate change is the question around demand and supply, which is critical now as the energy sector is recovering from the aftermath of Covid-19 in an economic environment characterised by supply glitches and high energy prices.
Christened 'the Olympics of the energy sector', the Middle East Energy conference will allow participants to address critical questions of demand and supply amid concerns that 733 million people globally still have no access to electricity, and 2.4 billion people worldwide still cook using fuels detrimental to their health and the environment.
According to the World Health Organisation, household air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally per year in 2020, including over 237,000 deaths of children under the age of 5.
To curb this, organisations and policymakers must come up with a clear plan to ensure the sustainable supply of clean fuel even in times of adversity with war, health calamities, and natural disasters like earthquakes.
Closer home, Kenya is rapidly emerging as Africa's renewable energy hub hosting the largest wind farm on the continent and championing a net zero initiative by 2030.
In 2021, 81 per cent of Kenya's electricity generation came from the low-carbon sources of geothermal, hydro, wind, and solar power.
These great assets, coupled with advanced technology and innovation can change the narrative and help to shift the MEA's economic trajectory in the right direction.
Middle East Energy gives the world a platform to ensure we make the right decisions and champion forward-looking innovations and technologies, empowering a world facing economic uncertainties arising from the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Covid-19, and the highest inflation levels seen in recent decades.
Business leaders need to take the climate crisis seriously, aggressively reduce emissions, and call on governments to take bold climate action.
Even so, the world has advanced technologically with some of the latest innovations capable of addressing the challenges mentioned above.
Finally, transparent and impact-orientated engagement, driven by the urgency to sustainably manage our environment, contributes significantly and measurably to achieving the SDGs.
Partnerships between industry peers inspire, inform and enable organisations, countries, and people to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
This will be the big theme underlying all of the conversations at the 48th Middle East Energy in Dubai.