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A surprise green hydrogen agreement amidst the events of COP27

Olivia Carroll is a student at the University of Minnesota Law School.

The morning begins with a promise. Just after 9:00 AM on Wednesday morning, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, watches on as Scott Nathan, CEO of U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) signs a retainer letter with Sactec CEO Terje Pilskog (pictured below) to explore potential financing support for a new green hydrogen project in Egypt.

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, watches on as Scott Nathan, CEO of U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) signs a retainer letter with Sactec CEO Terje Pilskog to explore potential financing support for a new green hydrogen project in Egypt.

DFC is a development finance institution and U.S. federal agency authorized under the Build Act of 2018. Following President Biden’s 2021 directive to catalyze climate financing for developing countries, the DFC is committing over $2.3 billion in climate-linked development projects during Fiscal Year 2022. Sactec is a Norwegian company specializing in renewable energy and solar systems. The speakers on stage proudly proclaim that if the resulting project has the potential to “demonstrate an innovative, long-term green energy solution,” the DFC bank will help finance additional climate-linked ventures in Egypt.

This may sound like a headliner event—significant money pledged to a significant undertaking—but save for the dozen fellow onlookers crowded onto the small U.S. pavilion platform next to me, the transaction induces little fanfare. After several days at COP27, I can hazard a guess as to why this might be the case. The first reason is exemplified by the very fact that my own attendance was largely accidental: the U.S. pavilion had advertised a panel event on “The Role of Green Hydrogen in Africa’s Energy Transition,” which I wanted to attend due to my interest in learning about green hydrogen implementation. But there was no indication anywhere that such an agreement would be signed, nor that John Kerry would be present for the event. The same can be said for most meetings and events at COP, which are either poorly advertised among one of the numerous COP schedules with no centralized point of access, or not advertised at all.

The second reason could be the competing interest in other, just as significant and valuable events occurring at the same time and in other parts of the venue. There are many exceptional meetings, agreements, panels, and discussions happening at any given time and in any given room. This element of the conference can be extremely frustrating—as I’ve struggled at times navigate the complex structure of meeting side rooms and pavilion hubs—but it can also result in the occasional unexpected and pleasant surprise to be present for an event no one anticipated would be happening.

As a University of Minnesota law student pursuing a career in energy and environmental law, I am exceptionally thrilled to attend COP27 and experience this first-hand account of international law at work, state-to-state negotiations, and private public partnerships as they are built before my very eyes. The conference is rife with these happenings and it’s not even 10:00 AM!

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