Solar and wind are the stars of our energy system: UN Secretary-General

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Clean, Renewable Energy Is ‘the Difference between Life and Death’, Will Prevent Climate Catastrophe, Secretary-General Tells High-Level Dialogue

New Delhi, 25th September 2021. UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ has said that We cannot wait another 40 years.  The age of renewable, affordable energy access for all must start today. He was addressing High‑level Dialogue on Energy yesterday.

The Secretary-General told the High‑level Dialogue on Energy that the double imperative of ending energy poverty and limiting climate change could be accomplished by investing in clean, affordable and sustainable energy for all, and by shifting to decarbonizing energy systems and mobilizing finance, to name a few.

He said that we have a double imperative – to end energy poverty and to limit climate change – and he added that we can do that by investing in clean, affordable and sustainable energy for all.  He outlined four priorities for a sustainable energy future:  closing the energy gap, shifting to decarbonized energy systems, mobilizing finance and promoting technology transfer to the developing world, and ensuring that no one is left behind.

More than 150 voluntary commitments in the form of Energy Compacts have been submitted to the Dialogue, including more than $400 billion in new finance and investments from governments and the private sector to increase electricity and clean cooking for hundreds of millions of people, and significantly expand renewables and energy efficiency.

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Highlevel Dialogue on Energy, held yesterday:

Welcome to the High‑level Dialogue on Energy.  This event is long overdue.  It has been 40 years since we last discussed energy at the highest level.

Today, we face a moment of truth.  Close to 760 million people still lack 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.  So, we have a double imperative – to end energy poverty and to limit climate change.

And we have an answer that will fulfil both imperatives:  affordable, renewable and sustainable energy for all.  This is the objective of Sustainable Development Goal 7 – investing in clean, affordable energy for all will improve the well‑being of billions of people.  It can create the green jobs that we urgently need for COVID‑19 recovery.  It will advance all the Sustainable Development Goals.  And it is the single most important solution to avert climate catastrophe.

We have the tools we need.  Solar photovoltaics are now the cheapest power source in most countries.  And renewables yield three times more jobs than the fossil fuel sector. 

Solar and wind are the stars of our energy system.  During the COVID‑19 pandemic, they have been the only sources of energy that continued to grow.

But it’s not nearly fast enough.  We are still a long way from being able to provide affordable and clean energy for all.  In 11 sub‑Saharan countries alone, one-quarter of health facilities lack access to electricity.  Globally, as many as 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air, leading to some 8 million premature deaths each year.  And disasters made worse by climate change are increasing.  Access to clean, renewable energy is, quite simply, the difference between life and death.

We must solve these challenges this decade.  And we must start today.  Without deep and rapid decarbonization of our energy systems over the next 10 years, we will never reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.  This will be fatal to the Sustainable Development Goals, to us all and the planet.  Billions of people will be condemned to more poverty and more ill‑health while the ecosystems we all rely on collapse.  This is a profound injustice to current and future generations.

But this bleak future is not inevitable.  Science has shown us exactly how to avoid it.  To limit temperature rise to 1.5°C we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net‑zero emissions by 2050.

All countries have a role.  

Developing nations need to see the promised mobilization of $100 billion dollars a year for climate action.  And we must ensure 50 per cent of climate finance is directed towards adaptation and resilience to the climate disruption that is to come.

Today’s meeting presents a historic opportunity.

I count on all countries – especially major emitters – to rise to this moment along with the major players from the world of business and finance.  I am pleased to see several of the major emitters – countries and sectors – demonstrating leadership through the High‑level Dialogue process along with bold commitments to act.

I see four priorities for a sustainable energy future. 

First, we must close the energy access gap by 2030.  That means cutting in half the number of people without access to electricity by 2025.  And it means providing over 1 billion people with access to clean cooking solutions by 2025.  The cost of closing the energy access gap is modest:  around $35 billion dollars a year for electricity access and $25 billion dollars a year for clean cooking.

Second, we must rapidly shift to decarbonized energy systems. 

By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple to respectively 630 and 390 gigawatts added annual capacity.  And we must intensify our efforts to improve energy efficiency.  There must be no new coal plants built after 2021.  The Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) countries must commit to phasing out existing coal capacity by 2030, with all other countries following suit by 2040.

There is no reason for countries or investors to finance new fossil fuel exploration, licensing or production infrastructure.  These will become stranded assets. 

Clean, renewable energy solutions provide the best business opportunities. 

International cooperation must be dramatically scaled up to catalyse the finance and investment needed to accelerate such energy transitions, especially in developing countries and small island developing States.

Third, to reach universal energy access by 2030 and maintain a net‑zero trajectory by mid‑century, we must mobilize predictable finance at scale and promote technology transfer to the developing world.  We need to triple investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency to $5 trillion dollars a year.  And access to finance by developing countries must be simplified, facilitated and expedited.

We need to redirect fossil fuel subsidies to renewables and put a price on carbon.  And all development banks – multilateral, regional and national – need to help countries as they transition their economies.  Public and private finance must be urgently mobilized and deployed at scale to accelerate the global phase-out of coal power generation.

Fourth, we must ensure no one is left behind in the race to a net‑zero future.  The global energy transition must be just, inclusive and equitable.  No two national energy transition pathways will be identical.  Investing in renewable energy – instead of spending billions on propping up fossil fuels – can create tens of millions of good jobs and empower the most vulnerable.

However, investments will need to be made in retraining and in social safety nets.  We can and must pursue an agenda that is good for people and the planet.  The commitments coming through the United Nations energy‑led process are a real signal of what is possible.

Every country, city, financial institution, company and civil society organization has a role to play in building a sustainable and equitable energy future. I ask all of you to rise to this moment and be bold.  Demonstrate your commitment to this energy future in the form of an “Energy Compact”, which can deliver on a global road map to achieve our goals over the next decade.  UN‑Energy will continue to help drive [action] through the United Nations system.

Today, I call on all Governments to build on international cooperation and provide the global package of support needed for a just, inclusive and sustainable energy transition that ensures renewable energy access for all.

We cannot wait another 40 years.  The age of renewable, affordable energy access for all must start today.  And I thank you.

This information has been given in a press release of the United Nations.

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