Photo: UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed. Credit: Vienna Energy Forum. - Photo: 2017

Fighting Poverty and Climate Change are the Same Fight

By Amina J. Mohammed

Note: Amina J Mohammed is the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General. Following are excerpts from her remarks as prepared for delivery at the opening of the Vienna Energy Forum on May 11, 2017. The full text was distributed by the Vienna-based UN Information Service (UNIS). – The Editor.

VIENNA (IDN-INPS) – Together, the two ground-breaking agreements (the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change) are a transformative vision for a better world — universal, inclusive and integrated, an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership on a healthy planet.

But realizing that vision means we must address climate change as a matter of utmost urgency.

And we know that climate change is a scientific fact. There is no longer any doubt.

It is a real and present threat to peace and prosperity around the globe.

Droughts, floods, high heat, extreme weather, and rising seas are displacing people as never before and putting lives and livelihoods in jeopardy.

And there is a real humanitarian cost, climate impacts have already incurred huge expense for business owners and the insurance industry.

No country or sector is immune.

That is why 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are mutually reinforcing and inseparable.

And it is why Member States have overwhelmingly endorsed both.

Implementing the 2030 Agenda and addressing climate change must go hand-in-hand.

Fighting poverty and combatting climate change are the same fight.

If we commit to action, we can fulfil the Paris climate goals and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and deliver prosperity and security for billions of people.

But we must act quickly and decisively, before the window of opportunity closes.

At the heart of these two agendas lies energy.

A transformative approach to energy makes all our Sustainable Development Goals possible, from reducing poverty to delivering clean water; from powering innovation and industry to providing light for children to learn; from delivering essential health services to empowering women and youth; from addressing food security to mitigating climate change.

That is why the 2030 Agenda has established the first ever universal goal on energy, SDG7: to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

Achieving SDG 7 on energy, with its targets on universal access, energy efficiency and renewable energy, will open a new world of opportunity for billions of people.

It will lay the foundation for the eradication of poverty, for climate action and for a sustainable world.

Simply put, without progress on SDG7, it will be impossible to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

Today, nearly one in every seven people lacks access to electricity.

More than 3 billion people rely on wood, charcoal, animal and crop waste or other solid fuels to cook their food and heat their homes.

That’s 40 per cent of all our people.

Indoor air pollution kills some 4 million people a year, most of them are women and children inhaling toxic smoke.

While there has been good progress in improving rates of electrification in recent years, the burden of energy poverty is still heavy in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Energy production is also responsible for 35 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions, while energy use in transport and industry accounts for another 35 per cent.

So, transitioning to sustainable energy systems that meet every one’s needs, that leave no one behind, and that do so cleanly, reliably and affordably — is essential for sustainable development and the real solution to climate change.

The good news is that much is already happening to transform our energy economy.

Smart entrepreneurs are facilitating new business models, mobilizing investment and deploying innovative technologies to expand access to modern energy in developing countries.

Smart governments are shifting public policy to embrace renewable energy as part of their energy mix and to drive energy efficiency.

In the United States, solar energy already employs more Americans in the power sector than oil, gas, and coal combined.

China aims to increase its renewable energy by about 40 per cent by 2020.

India’s solar capacity is expected to double next year.

Saudi Arabia plans to install 700 megawatts of solar and wind power.

It’s a great start.

Globally, over a half of the investment in the power sector is now made in renewable energy.

And more than 8 million people already work in the renewable energy industry.

In all regions, governments and businesses are increasingly investing in clean energy.

Countries, cities, companies and communities that are leading the way do so because it makes sense and it matters to the bottom line.

It makes sense in terms of health and well-being through cleaner air, safer communities and less volatile weather;

It makes sense in terms of competitiveness with cleaner cities attracting new businesses and providing more jobs and better livelihoods.

And it makes sense in terms of security, with nations and communities gaining access to abundant, clean power for the long-term future;

However, there is still much to do.

Globally, energy efficiency improvement could account for 40 per cent of the emissions reduction we need to see.

Yet we are far off the pace of improvement we need.

This is a critical issue for energy intensive economies, but also for the less developed where heavy fuel oil and diesel are a drain on the public purse.

For years, fossil fuel-based energy systems, transport systems and energy intensive industries have played a critical role in developing the world we live in.

But we know that now they are also creating the conditions that can do or undo all our progress.

Therefore the true cost of these fuels has to be reflected in the economy.

We need to price carbon as the pollutant that it is.

Many countries are coming to this conclusion.

We need to end harmful fossil fuel subsidies.

And we need to continue to innovate in financing for cleaner growth.

The Energy Transitions Commission has estimated that the incremental cost to secure an energy transition that gives everyone opportunity is between 300 and 600 billion dollars a year.

This may seem a lot, but in terms of total annual investment capital this is neither large nor beyond our collective capacity.

Green bonds are starting to be a mainstream instrument – the market reached over 200 billion dollars this year alone.

But, at the current pace of progress, we still won’t achieve SDG7 by 2030.

We need to re-double our efforts.

We need your leadership and commitment to capacity building, innovation, technology transfer and partnerships – genuine partnerships that will scale up our efforts.

Moving forward, we have a number of opportunities.

Nationally Determined Contributions can harness clean energy solutions to drive progress towards the Paris Agreement. I saw that first hand as Minister of Environment when we implemented the first Green Bond.

The UN High-Level Political Forum in 2018 provides an important opportunity to undertake the first in-depth review of SDG7 and catalyze bold action.

Voluntary Nation Reviews of the 2030 Agenda including the SDGs provide critical inputs.

Regional and global cooperation will also be crucial in furthering alignment, coherence and coordination.

At the UN, we intend to strengthen leadership for policy coherence and coordination, including through UN-Energy, in support of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris agreement. The leadership of Rachel Kyte is exemplary.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide peace, prosperity, opportunity and dignity for all on a healthy planet.

We cannot afford to fail. Not for our children and not for their children.

I look forward to sharing the concrete, bold ideas and action from all of you.

Together we have the opportunity to bring about transformative change. [IDN-InDepthNews – 11 May 2017]

Photo: UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed. Credit: Vienna Energy Forum.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate –

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