By LIU Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the High-level Dialogue on Energy
The UN High-level Dialogue on Energy – a summit-level meeting to be convened virtually on 24 September, during the UN General Assembly – is shaping up to be an historic and game-changing mobilization for action and cooperation on clean, affordable energy for all by 2030 (SDG7) and net-zero emissions by 2050. As the first high-level gathering on energy issues at the UN in over 40 years, the Dialogue is itself an indication that Governments are recognizing the crucial importance of this issue.
Transforming the way our world produces energy will be critical to tackling both the climate crisis and the energy access crisis. Now, 80 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions stems from our energy production, making it one of the main drivers of climate change. At the same time, 760 million people still live without electricity, while 2.6 billion cook with dirty, unhealthy fuels. All indicators show that we are far off track from a trajectory to achieve SDG7 by 2030. The High-level Dialogue will be a key moment to accelerate action.
As part of the preparations for the Dialogue, a global roadmap to achieve clean, affordable energy for all by 2030 has been proposed. The roadmap is based on discussions at the week-long Ministerial Thematic Forums in June and builds on the reports of five multi-stakeholder Technical Working Groups. Among many recommendations, the roadmap suggests closing the energy access gap and proposes a shift to decarbonized energy by tripling renewables capacity and phasing out coal plants by 2030 in OECD countries and by 2040 in others. The plan also calls for improving energy efficiency and tripling clean energy investment to 5 trillion dollars per year, redirecting fossil fuel subsidies and putting a price on carbon. It also stresses the need for a just transition that can create tens of millions of green jobs and empower the most vulnerable.
Every country, city, financial institution, company and civil society organization has a role to play. All are being asked to consider making “Energy Compact” commitments, outlining what actions they will take by 2030. These will be tracked over the decade to come, with the support of UN-Energy. Over 25 Energy Compacts were previewed in June, and as of early September, over 100 have been submitted for official registration, from a wide range of stakeholders. Thirty Governments, serving as Global Champions for the Dialogue, are leading the way in mobilizing Compacts. The private sector and philanthropy organizations are making strong commitments too.
To give a few examples, the IKEA Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation have committed to launching a $1 billion fund to boost access to renewable energy in developing countries through mini-grids and off-grid sources. India’s largest power utility, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Limited, announced an Energy Compact to nearly double their renewable energy capacity.
A coalition to mobilize Energy Compacts on green hydrogen technologies is being led by Denmark, Chile and Germany, in collaboration with IRENA, the World Economic Forum and others. Google, in partnership with Sustainable Energy for All, is mobilizing companies, governments and others to join a coalition for 24/7 carbon-free energy, recognizing that full decarbonization of electricity systems has the potential to eliminate nearly 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
A group spearheaded by Kenya, Malawi and the Netherlands is collaborating on a joint Energy Compact to boost access to clean cooking. Partners include UN DESA, Energia, the World Bank Group, WHO and the Health and Energy Platform of Action. More details about Energy Compacts can be found online.
The High-level Dialogue will open officially at 9:30 a.m. on 24 September, with remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The day’s activities will include a “fireside chat” with leaders from the UN, business and civil society, to illuminate the issues. In the formal Leadership Dialogues, statements will be heard from Heads of State and Government, as well as from a number of leaders from business, youth and civil society as time permits.
To allow more space to bring together businesses, cities, foundations, youth and other civil society representatives to announce their own Energy Compact commitments and mobilize partnerships and financing for transformative action, multi-stakeholder pre-summit “Energy Action Days” are also being organized virtually on 22 and 23 September, with more details to be announced.
Stay tuned and visit the event website for more details on the programme for the High-level Dialogue on Energy and affiliated events. All official events are expected to be broadcast live at webtv.un.org and on the Dialogue website.
It will be a time for energy action, sparking commitments and partnerships for years to come.
For more information, please contact Energy2021@un.org.