In the final run-up to the COP26 climate conference that starts this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland, there has been the expected flurry of declarations from quarters political and industrial of new pledges to commit to net zero strategies, adding to earlier carbon neutrality avowals from the governments of the US, China, Germany and Japan. But the announcements coming from the leaders of two of the planet’s climate action laggards, Australia and Saudi Arabia, were quickly called out for their lack of ambition – and indeed greenwashing.

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Critics immediately slammed Australia for not acting to spur faster decarbonisation as the fossil-rich nation unveiled a 2050 net zero emissions pledge that places heavy stress on “ultra-cheap solar” and hydrogen, but barely mentions wind power, with the country’s Green party pulling no punches, labelling the plan a “climate fraud. No detail. All spin. And no action in this critical decade, when we need it most”.

Saudi Arabia — the world's largest oil-exporting nation — meanwhile set out a target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060, even as it continues to expand its oil and gas production capacity. In a Recharge analysis of the plan, which Greenpeace held up as “pure propaganda”, the Kingdom’s strategy of using its vast gas reserves to turn itself into a blue hydrogen and carbon capture and storage giant was undercut by analysts who forecast that in the end the Saudi’s energy transition could take place “the same way as everyone else’s – [based on] renewable energy, energy efficiency [and] electric vehicles”.

Big Oil may feel somewhat sidelined at COP26, with Shell CEO Ben van Beurden admitting in a quarterly results call that organisers had told the Anglo-Dutch supermajor it was “not welcome”, but this didn’t noticeably dampen the enthusiasm French sector peer TotalEnergies is showing for its own energy transition strategy.

In a pair of exclusive interviews with its global and US offshore wind chiefs, Olivier Terneaud and David Foulon Recharge reported the Paris-headquartered company is ramping up its clean-energy ambitions via the rapidly sector, supercharged by a task force of 50 “renewables explorers” deployed around the world. Another French oil sector outfit that is in exploration mode, the rebranded Technip Energies, told us – also exclusively – that it was speeding back into the floating wind sector after a ten-year absence.

Hydrogen’s page-turning narrative is making speed-readers of us all and this week has seen more new subplots being added to the saga. Energy transition shipping outfit Global Energy Ventures kicked things off with plans to build a giga-scale solar-powered hydrogen production facility on the Tiwi Islands, off Australia’s Northern Territory, with an eye on ultimately producing some 100,000 tonnes a year of the green gas for export around Asia Pacific using a fleet of specially-designed compressed-H2 shuttle tankers.

Then sector pioneers Plug Power and Lhyfe announced they had inked a deal to develop as much as 300MW of renewables-powered hydrogen plant “throughout Europe” by 2025, with a giant 1GW facility to follow.

And, for good measure, a Wood Mackenzie put the transformative potential of green H2 in context with a research note that argued the world’s five largest energy exporters – Saudi Arabia, Russia, Australia, the US and Indonesia – could accelerate their transitions toward net zero by shifting to industrial-scale hydrogen production – ‘blue’ followed swiftly by ‘green’ – to meet global market demand expected to grow as much as six-fold by 2050.