How can the world come together to radically change the way it produces and uses energy, as part of efforts to hold back climate change and to ultimately give humanity a more secure future on planet earth? That’s the question that over one hundred countries, organizations and businesses will be discussing at the United Nations on Friday at the High-level Dialogue on Energy, the first meeting of its kind in 40 years.
‘Make these commitments a reality’, says deputy UN chief
Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and UN Deputy-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed delivered some closing remarks a few minutes ago.
Mr. Lui said that he was encouraged by the willingness of Member States to make Sustainable Development Goal 7 (clean energy access for all by 2030) a reality. He added that, without civil society and youth we have no shot at achieving this goal.
The Dialogue, he said, marks the start of a new phase, with all the main elements in place for a global roadmap towards reaching SDG7, and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Ms. Mohammed thanked those who are “leading by example” by submitting Energy Compacts, which she described as critical if we are to keep global temperatures rises to 1.5 degrees.
The response to economic recovery, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has, she said, been inadequate, and pushed millions into poverty. The commitments made today, she declared, represent a fight back.
Achieving net zero carbon emissions, continued the deputy UN chief, hinges on actions taken this decade, which needs to be one of massive renewable energy expansion, with people and planet at the heart of all our initiatives.
Summing up the commitments made throughout the day, Ms. Mohammed said that national governments committed to provide electricity to over 166 million people worldwide, and private companies pledged to reach just over 200 million people.
Governments also committed to install an additional 698 gigawatts of renewable energy from solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and renewables-based hydrogen, and businesses, notably power utilities, pledged to install an additional 823 GW, all by 2030.
“These are bold commitments” she said, “I invite you all to help make them a reality.”
That wraps up our coverage of today’s event, but the statements from senior government ministers around the world continues here.
Thank you for following today’s blog. You might like to subscribe to our podcasts, No Denying It and The Lid is On, where you can listen to more interviews and features on the energy transition, and climate action.
We have heard about many national government commitments made today, but just as significant are the pledges made by several coalitions.
The No New Coal compact includes Sri Lanka, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK, and Montenegro. The countries involved in the coalition have committed to immediately stop issuing new permits for unabated coal-fired power generation projects and cease new construction of unabated coal-fired power generation projects as of the end of 2021.
The 24/7 Carbon Free Energy (CFE) Compact, led by Google and in partnership with a group of energy buyers and suppliers including governments, aims to transform global electricity grids to “absolute zero” or full decarbonization. Signatories commit to adopting and enabling 24/7 CFE, which means that every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumption is met with carbon-free electricity sources, every hour of every day, everywhere.
And a Gender and Energy Compact, involving governments, and some 30 civil society and international organizations, aims to give women equal opportunity to lead, participate in, and benefit from a just energy transition, and to have equal access to sustainable energy products and services.
Nauru, the UAE and Mauritius
This afternoon, as part of the “scaling up action” part of today’s event, we’ve heard pledges from countries as diverse as Nauru, a Pacific island nation, and the United Arab Emirates.
The President of Nauru announced his country’s pledge to achieve 50 per cent electricity generation from renewable sources by 2023, and a 30 per cent improvement in energy efficiency by 2030, compared to this year’s figures. However, he pointed out that Naururequires technical and financial support in order to achieve these goals.
The United Arab Emirates committed to providing 100 per cent of its population with access to electricity, and primary reliance on clean fuels and technologies for cooking, by 2030. The country also pledged to generate 2.5 GW from solar energy in the building sector by 2030.
And Mauritius significantly scaled up its renewable energy target, from 40 per cent to 60 per cent by 2030, from the current level of about 24 per cent. The country has also decided to completely phase out coal, which represents 40 per cent of energy needs, by 2030.
Scaling up action
The fourth and final leadership dialogue has kicked off, introduced by Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for all, and co-chair of today's event.
Ms, Ogunbiyi said that she had been encouraged by the strong endorsement from Heads of State, UN agencies, international bodies as well as multi-stakeholder leaders, in the form of Energy Compacts that show their willingness not only to make commitments, but to also back it up with action.
Welcoming the announcements of investments totalling some $67 billion towards achieving clean energy access for all, she nevertheless noted that much more needs to be done to improve clean cooking. This could be improved by public-private partnerships, which aim to leverage over $200 billion, and focus on underserved sectors both on electricity and clean cooking access.
Germany and the Netherlands
During this dialogue on climate finance, we heard the German commitment to increase the proportion of renewable energy in total electricity consumption to 65 per cent by 2030, and to support partner countries in expanding use of decentralized energy and innovative technologies such as green hydrogen and “power to x”, an innovation to use surplus electric power.
The German government has also committed to providing seven billion euros towards speeding up the market rollout of hydrogen technology in Germany, and another 2 billion euros for fostering international partnerships.
The Netherlands will support access to clean cooking for 45 million people, access to electricity based on renewable energy for 100 million people, and a doubling of job opportunities in the energy transition for women and youth, all by 2030.
The promise of technology
“There are still 789 million people without access to electricity. By scaling up low-cost swarm grid programmes, we could bring electrification to around 80 per cent of these people”.
This impressive claim is made by Alexandra Soezer, a technical adviser at the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and shows that an electricity grid is not the only way to get power, and clean power in particular, to many more people.
The “swarm grids” refer to sturdy power cubes, which look like large car batteries, and are charged by a solar array. They are being installed in vulnerable communities, from Laos to Mozambique to Vanuatu: the Vanuatu government has plans to extend it to many more of the country’s off-grid islands, and transition to 100 per cent renewable energy. Find out more here.
Money, money, money
Welcome back to our LIVE blog on the High-Level Dialogue on Energy, the first of its kind in four decades. This morning has already seen several significant commitments made to accelerate the transition to a global economy based on renewable energy sources, which will be essential, if we are to have any hope of keeping a lid on the warming of the planet.
The third of the four dialogues has just begun, and it’s all about countries putting their money where their metaphorical mouths are: finance. In short, where will the money to pay for this transition come from, and how will it be used? We will bring you some of the most important pledges being made on the finance front, later this afternoon.
Over a decade ago, developed countries agreed to commit some $100 billion per year in support of climate action, which includes switching to clean energy, but that target has never been met. It might sound a lot, but it’s only around five per cent of annual military expenditure (an estimated $2 trillion in 2002), and the trillions developed countries found to finance COVID-related economic relief for their citizens.
With communities in all parts of the world already suffering from the financial effects of climate change, from crop loss due to drought, or major damage to infrastructure caused by flooding or other extreme weather, it might be more pertinent to ask if we can afford not to collectively raise at least $100 billion a year to deal with all aspects of the climate crisis.
Nevertheless, despite the “build back better” rhetoric we have heard so often during the pandemic, countries continue to invest in the production of fossil fuels, adding to the already dangerous emissions levels that are driving temperature rises.
You can read more about climate finance – what it is, and how it works – here.
'If solar power works in the Arctic, what excuse do city folks have?'
That’s the question posed in Old Crow, home of the Yukon’s new solar installation project, which, when complete, will allow the community to stop burning nearly 200,000 litres of diesel fuel annually.
The initiative is being shepherded by Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, the elected chief of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, based in Old Crow, a community of around 300 in Canada, which can only be accessed by air.
Chief Tizya-Tramm is the guest of the UN climate action podcast, No Denying It, which is available on all podcast platforms. The 10-part series features the voices of many inspiring climate activists, as well as high-profile advocates including Michelle Yeoh, Ed Norton and Jane Goodall. Listen to the episode here.
More to come…
This afternoon, at 15:00 Eastern Time, we will see a dialogue on finance, perhaps the most crucial aspect of the transition to a clean economy, because without money, it will be impossible to put these plans into action. We’ll be finding out where the cash is coming from, and how it’s going to be used.
More Energy Compacts will be announced by global leaders, and we expect the event to conclude with a wrap-up of progress made, and a look ahead to the next steps, in particular the COP26 UN climate conference, due to take place in the Scottish city of Glasgow in November.
Together with partners in Malawi, we’re working to improve the quality and reliability of social services for children and improve health, education, access to water, hygiene and sanitation through renewable energy.— UNICEF (@UNICEF) September 24, 2021
#ForEveryChild #UNGA #HLDE2021 https://t.co/j7dG2vYjW7
Earlier we heard Malawi's energy commitments to provide universal cleaner cooking. The Malawi office of the UN Childrens' Fund UNICEF has underlined the importance of renewable energy solutions, to reduce health issues facing children due to the lack of electricity in hard-to-reach areas.
Across Malawi, only around 10 per cent of households have electricity, and in rural areas, that drops to four per cent. However, the Government has committed to achieving nationwide access to electricity by 2030, and to providing universal quality healthcare.
UNICEF Malawi has developed a system for using solar-powered deeper boreholes for improved water access, and is working to provide solar energy solutions to power remote healthcare facilities that are not connected to the grid.
You can find more on how UNICEF and partners in Malawi are working to improve social services for children in the country, here.
India and Sierra Leone
India has made several pledges related to renewable energy production, and emission reductions. The country is committing to adding 10 GW of solar photovoltaic manufacturing capacity by 2025, increasing renewable energy installed capacity to 450 GW by 2030, and to implement a National Hydrogen Energy Mission to scale up annual green hydrogen production.
The country will enhance energy efficiency in agriculture, buildings, industry and transport sectors, and promote energy-efficient appliances and equipment, in order to reduce India's emissions intensity of GDP by around a third, in comparison to 2005 levels, by 2030.
Sierra Leone’s commitments included an increase in the use of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to an adoption rate of 25%, as an alternative to wood, ensuring that all households have access to energy-saving cooking solutions, and Increasing the efficiency of most biomass stoves to a minimum of 20 per cent.
Please note that we’re picking out a selection of today’s announcements during today’s event, but you can find the full rundown of the Energy Compacts here.
Latin American and Nigeria
In the last few minutes, Colombia’s president announced that 70 per cent of the installed capacity and electricity generation in Latin America will be from renewable energies by 2030.
Governments participating in the RELAC Energy Compact include Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
Nigeria committed to electrify five million homes by 2023, using solar technologies, creating 250,000 jobs, and give 30 million homes access to clean cooking and energizing agriculture, textile production, cold storage etc. using gas as a transition fuel.
A just transition
The switch to clean energy is going to have a significant impact on the global economy, and affect people’s lives. As the jobs that were once supplied by, or were connected to, fossil-fuel based industries disappear, those affected will need help to find employment elsewhere.
This assistance is part of a “just transition”, ensuring that no-one is left behind, and that the benefits of a clean economy are felt throughout the population. The International Labour Organization (ILO) got to grips with the issue at an event in April, with a focus on Africa. The UN jobs agency warned that, whilst a shift to renewables will create work, millions of jobs will go, and governments on the continent need to help their citizens to adjust.
In the second dialogue of the day, world leaders will show how they are planning to ensure that they will support their populations through the transition to a clean global economy.
US 80 per cent clean energy pledge
As expected, the US made some major commitments this morning, pledging that 80 per cent of the country’s electricity power generation will come from clean sources by 2030. The country will also mobilize $25 billion in public sector commitments from Power Africa’s development partners and development institutions.
We also heard from The Rockefeller Foundation, whose representative announced $1 billion in philanthropic capital, in partnership with the IKEA Foundation, to scale up the renewable energy sector in support of ending energy poverty and combatting the climate crisis. A new platform would aim to give one billion people with access to reliable, distributed renewably energy and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to one billion tons annually.
And the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, announced an Offshore Wind Energy Compact, a committment to achieve 380 GW of offshore wind, installed worldwide by 2030, and 2,000GW by 2050.
Some key commitments
This morning several world leaders announced new energy commitments. Here is a selection:
Denmark committed to reduce 70 per cent of CO2 emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990), and produce all of its electricity from renewable energy by 2028. Oil and gas extraction will end by 2050 and, by 2030, the country will spend at least $500 million on climate finance every year.
Malawi is targeting universal access to cleaner cooking for households and institutions, and plans to phase out open fires by 2030, with two million cleaner cookstoves reached by 2025, and an investment of more than $596 million.
In the private sector, energy company Enel said it would reach 5.6 million new electricity connections by 2030, speed up its coal phase-out to 2027, triple renewable energy generation to 145GW by 2030 and provide more than 4 million EV charging points and 10,000 electric buses by 2030.
There is more to come this morning, including a highly anticipated statement from John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate for the United States, one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters.
A zero sum game
The first topic being covered today concerns universal access to energy, and how to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions (the term “net zero” means that, whilst greenhouse gas emissions are not eliminated, they are offset by the amount of emissions that are removed from the atmosphere
In its latest update on progress towards SDG7, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), an independent, UN-backed body which is the lead organizer of the event, notes that gains in energy access throughout Africa are being reversed, and predicted that, at the current rate, some 660 million people will still be without electricity by 2030.
A UN report on this subject, produced for this event, makes several recommendations on how to reach these goals, including new financing for clean cooking tools, and policies to bring about sustainable energy for all, centred around the real needs of people.
The Indonesian government is putting some of these ideas into practice, and has begun bringing clean electricity to rural communities, thanks to a project backed by the UN. The programme involves the installation of off-grid solar- power plants, which will provide electricity for around 20,000 people in remote villages.
It’s being overseen by a group of Indonesians dubbed “energy patriots”, who have been tasked with boosting the use of clean energy resources, with the goal of improving access to healthcare, education, and economic development in rural villages.
Although the project is only meeting a fraction of Indonesia’s total unmet needs, with millions still to be reached, the programme serves as a blueprint for rural development that goes beyond basic socio-economic support. Find out more here.
The clean cooking crisis
Although it doesn’t get as much attention as the renewable energy transition, the lack of clean cooking tools is an urgent crisis, according to Chebet Lesan, CEO of a Kenyan social enterprise called Bright Green.
Ms. Lesan, named a “young environmental hero” by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), created Bright Green to make eco-friendly fuel from recycled waste, as an alternative to charcoal, which contributes to deforestation and environmental destruction.
In her remarks to the HLDE, Ms. Lesan said that some three billion people do not have access to clean cooking energy, which leads to millions of premature deaths
Because of this, she added, cooking is a dangerous, expensive transaction for many, which causes greenhouse gas emissions and destroys natural resources.
Ms. Lesan called for the support of world leaders who, she said, need to commit to new policies that encourage the growth of clean cooking. “Global problem needs a global solution”, she said. “Clean cooking must be prioritised”.
Of course, the transition to clean energy is not going to be cheap and the President of the UN General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, in his address to the meeting said: “A substantial increase in clean energy finance is essential for all countries, but particularly [those] where energy poverty equates to poverty”.
He added that 2.6 billion people are still relying on harmful fuels for cooking and that of the estimated $4.4 billion needed to achieve universal access to clean cooking, “only $32 million has been made available”.
'The age of renewable energy access for all must start today'
We’ve just heard the introductory remarks of UN Secretary-General António Guterres to the high-level Dialogue on Energy (henceforth referred to in this blog as HLDE!).
Mr. Guterres, describing the event as long overdue (the last such event took place 40 years ago), outlined some of the main elements of the energy crisis facing the world: close to 760 million people without access to electricity, some 2.6 billion people lack access to clean cooking solutions, and how we produce and use energy is the main cause of the climate crisis (emissions from energy account for about 75 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions).
The key to this crisis, he said is clean, affordable energy for all: solar energy is the cheapest power source in most countries, and provides more jobs than the fossil fuel sector.
Without it, he warned, billions of people will be condemned to more poverty and more ill-health while the ecosystems we all rely on collapse, and he called on all countries – especially major emitters – to make clean energy commitments, along with the major players from the world of business and finance.
The UN chief outlined four priorities for a sustainable energy future: cutting in half the number of people without access to electricity by 2025; rapidly shifting to clean energy sources; achieve universal energy access by 2030; and ensure that no one is left behind in the race to a net zero future.
“We cannot wait another 40 years”, concluded Mr. Guterres. “The age of renewable, affordable energy access for all must start today”.
The High-level Dialogue on Energy has just begun, and we will soon hear opening remarks from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, and business leaders.
This will be followed by statements from world leaders on the commitments they are making to switch to clean energy in the coming years.
You can watch the whole event live on UN Web TV, here.
In a sign of how the acceptance of clean energy is becoming mainstream, the motor industry, long the preserve of so-called “petrolheads” has accelerated plans to go electric, and consign the combustion engine to history.
Many of the biggest car manufacturers now have teams in the Formula E electric racing championship, the only sport to be certified net zero carbon since its inception.
Before this event starts, take a few minutes to listen to this episode of the flagship UN News podcast, The Lid Is On, in which we spoke to some of the major players involved in Formula E, to find out what the sport, and the industry, are doing to popularise the idea of electric transport.
The Energy Compacts
"The clean energy revolution & net-zero transformation isn't a hardship. It's an opportunity."— UNDP Climate (@UNDPClimate) September 20, 2021
Ahead of the High-Level Dialogue on Energy, US @ClimateEnvoy John Kerry urges countries & businesses to join the energy revolution. Join us at #HLDE on Friday: https://t.co/SlJNaI1st8 pic.twitter.com/ZahA1Xu5Ku
Several energy commitments were already made in the months building up to today’s event. Back in June, some 50 ministers outlined plans to reduce emissions, and ensure that all people, especially those in developing countries, have access to sustainable electricity.
National Energy Compacts – voluntary actions pledged to achieve clean, affordable energy for all by 2030 – were previewed by ministers from Brazil, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Nauru and the Netherlands.
An Energy Compact setting a regional target of 70 per cent renewable energy in the power mix for Latin America, was signed by Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and the Inter-American Development Bank, with other countries in the region invited to join.
Important commitments came from The IKEA Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, which announced plans for a $1 billion fund to boost access to renewable energy in developing countries; from GOGLA, a global association for the off-grid solar energy industry, which committed to delivering improved electricity access for 1 billion people by 2030; and the Association for Rural Electricity, which said it would work with the private sector to deliver sustainable electricity services to at least 500 million additional people.
More high-profile commitments are expected today, so watch this space!
A big ask
To have any chance of beating the climate crisis, it will be essential to radically upend the energy mix, slashing the proportion of fossil fuels that currently dominate energy production, and ramping up the use of renewables.
This is a big ask, and will require a significant step up in political will for change. Today’s event is taking place during the high-level General Debate of the UN General Assembly, which saw important commitments made by China and the US, the world’s largest economies, towards advancing the transition towards a clean economy.
US President Joe Biden committed to significantly increase the country’s international climate financing to approximately $11.4 billion a year, a proportion of which will go towards ramping up investments in renewable energy sources.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, used his address to the General Assembly to announce end all financing of coal fired power plants abroad and, instead support green and low carbon energy.
In a statement released in response to the U.S. and China announcements, UN chief António Guterres flagged that there is still a long way to go and that, based on Member States’ current emission reduction commitments, “the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7 degrees of heating”.
This is the backdrop to today’s conference, which is expected to see several new energy commitments made. Stay with us for the highlights!
Welcome to this LIVE blog of the High-level Dialogue on Energy, which begins in about an hour’s time (that’s 09:30 Eastern Time)
It’s being billed as an important opportunity to decisively split from the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, but will commitments on clean energy made at the UN in New York be enough to halt the rise in global temperatures?
Over the next few hours, we will take you through some of the most important commitments being made by world leaders, and the difference these Energy Compacts will make to the planet, and to people’s lives. We’ll hear from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, as well as business and youth leaders.