Experts Suggest Steps for Asia-Pacific’s Energy Transition

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) hosted an event as part of the UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy’s Ministerial Thematic Forums. Lessons learned from Asia-Pacific were discussed in order to promote clean, affordable energy for all (SDG 7) and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Speakers made actionable ideas, particularly in the area of adopting integrated approaches.

The side event headlined ‘Integrated approaches to boost SDG7 and climate-relevant SDG actions towards sustainability in the Asia-Pacific,’ was held on June 21, 2021, just before the Ministerial Thematic Forums for the High-Level Dialogue on Energy opened (HLDE). The event was moderated by Junichi Fujino, IGES.

Speakers discussed the conclusions of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (ESCAP) Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2021, which found that the region is on track to miss 2030 targets on energy access and efficiency. More investment and international cooperation are needed, according to the report. Speakers also discussed the findings of the five Technical Working Groups’ reports, which were used as inputs to the HLDE.

Energy transition activities in Asia-Pacific include increasing social protection and striving to restore the “broken relationship with the environment, according to Armida Salsiah Alsjahbana, ESCAP Executive Secretary and co-lead of the HLDE Technical Working Group on Energy Transition.

According to Minoru Takada of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), structural reforms to energy would be required to meet SDG 7 and the Paris Climate Agreement. He pointed out that the Asia-Pacific area has the most people and is the most diversified in the world, making the energy transition a huge issue.

A crucial lesson in the Technical Working Group report on “enabling the SDGs through inclusive and just energy transition,” according to Leena Srivastava of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), is that context matters. Every country and region must create its own plan in order to accomplish all of the SDGs, and implementation must be inclusive and participatory, including in terms of gender equality. Energy is a driver for other SDGs; demand reduction potential should be explored; digitization opens up new possibilities, and new decentralized energy consumption and production models should be developed. She argued that data analysis should go beyond looking at how far we still have to go, which focuses on our failures. She suggested that instead, we should focus on statistics and storytelling that reveal opportunities.

Energy systems are a cross-cutting issue for many SDGs and other global frameworks, including the Paris Agreement, the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, according to Kazuhiko Takeuchi, President of IGES and member of the Technical Working Group on Enabling SDGs through Inclusive, Just Energy Transitions.

IGES’ Nandakumar Janardhanan spoke about the importance of co-innovation, which he characterized as a collaborative and iterative strategy to jointly develop, manufacture, and scale up products. He claims that most creativity occurs behind closed doors, whereas co-innovation acknowledges the efforts of all partners.

Nuki Agya Utama, Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and Member of the Technical Working Group on Finance and Investment, spoke about the need of gaining access to clean cooking. He stated that the environmental and energy sectors must communicate on a national basis.

Nazmul Haque, a member of the Technical Working Group on Innovation, Technology, and Data from Bangladesh, emphasized the importance of focusing on local technology and establishing culturally suitable cooking solutions.

ESCAP’s Hongpeng Liu, a co-chair of the Technical Working Group on Energy Transition, underlined the importance of increased regional cooperation, adding that South-South cooperation may help discover best practices. He pointed out that the phase-out of coal will bring new concerns and challenges that will need to be addressed collectively.

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