NEW YORK: The UN has welcomed commitments by member states to transition toward renewable and clean energies but warned that more work is needed to address global energy poverty and to decarbonize the global energy system, in a historic summit on Friday.
A total of $400 billion in new finance and investment was committed by governments and the private sector during the UN’s High-level Dialogue on Energy, the first such meeting of its kind in more than 40 years.
More than 35 countries, including Arab and Gulf states, took part in the conference, and many announced funding and partnerships that will assist in domestic and global transitions toward a sustainable energy system.
According to the UN, nearly 760 million people worldwide lack access to electricity, and 2.6 billion people lack access to clean cooking solutions — the cost of closing this “energy access gap” is estimated at $35 billion a year for electricity and $25 billion for clean cooking.
And this transition, the UN said, must be accomplished without further contributing to global warming.
According to the UN, the world is dangerously close to missing its target, agreed as part of the Paris Climate Agreement, of no more than 1.5 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial temperature — spelling potential catastrophe for people and the planet.
Among the states committed to alleviating energy poverty without harming the environment is the UAE, whose Minister of Climate Change and Environment Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al-Nuaimi told the conference that his country was “honored” to be part of the global energy revolution.
“Today the United Arab Emirates is the home to three of the largest in capacity and lowest in cost solar plants in the universe. To date, we have invested over $40 billion in clean energy projects locally,” Al-Nuaimi said.
“Globally, we are proud to have provided over $1 billion in aid for renewable energy,” he said, adding that a major asset in the emirates’ energy transition has been the mobilization of the country’s burgeoning private sector.
As part of the energy dialogue event, the UAE committed to providing 100 percent of its population with access to electricity by 2030, powered primarily by clean fuels. The emirates also committed to scaling up its solar energy sector.
But while the global transition to clean energy is of paramount importance in combating climate change and alleviating poverty, the International Energy Institute’s CEO Fatih Birol warned that “we shouldn’t forget that energy provides important economic and social development. Energy brings light, power, heat and cool for our homes and hospitals; to cook, to travel. These are legitimate desires for every person in the world.”
Birol said, however, that it was possible to achieve a massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions while also achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which outline a series of objectives acknowledged by the international community as essential to providing a sustainable and liveable world by 2030.
“This is a race against time. We should not forget — unless all the nations finish this race, nobody will win the race. As such, international collaborations are critical to reaching the SDGs,” Birol said.
In his speech, US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry embraced international collaboration to fight climate change, and said that Friday’s meeting “couldn’t come at a more important time.”
Kerry committed the US to deriving 80 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2030, and said that the US International Development Finance Corporation, America’s development bank, would decarbonize its investment portfolio.
“Around the world, the United States is going to continue to promote clean energy infrastructure, in order to advance economic development,” said Kerry, who also announced that the US would provide 35 million new electrical connections in African homes and businesses across the continent.
“By working together, we will do what the scientists tell us we can do, which is win this battle,” he said. “We have the opportunity. It’s not a matter of a lack of capacity, it’s been a lack of willpower.”