Faced with the fast accelerating impacts of climate change and the urgent need to cut carbon emissions from the energy sector while ensuring that all people have access to electricity and clean energy, the UN is convening a meeting on September 24 to mobilize commitments and measures.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ High-Level Dialogue on Energy, which will be convened at the summit level at the request of the General Assembly, is a historic opportunity to close this gap, as it will be the first gathering of leaders at the UN solely devoted to energy issues in more than 40 years.
It will offer a roadmap toward net-zero emissions and universal energy access, as well as an opportunity for governments, corporations, and civil society organizations to present plans and commitments in the form of “Energy Compacts” that will assist in accomplish SDG 7 and the Paris Agreement.
Over 100 Energy Compacts had been submitted by organizations from over 26 countries as of early September, including member states, businesses, UN and international organizations, foundations, financial institutions, regions and cities, and civil society organizations, including several youth networks.
They include pledges to improve access to power and clean cooking, to increase the percentage of renewables and energy efficiency, to encourage investment, and to showcase other new technology.
As pledges are tracked through the 2030 target year and collaborations are expanded, many additional compacts are expected before the High-Level Dialogue and in the months ahead.
The Rockefeller Foundation and the IKEA Foundation have pledged $1 billion to launch a new global funding platform and provide one billion people with access to distributed renewable energy, such as mini-grids, as part of the large-scale Energy Compacts already announced.
As part of its Green Cities project in almost 40 countries, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has agreed to contribute an additional $1.3 billion by 2023 to finance district energy installations and other services.
According to a recent IPCC report, immediate action is required to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal in sight and prevent the effects of climate change.
At the same time, until all people have access to clean, cheap, and dependable energy, as agreed to by all countries as part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals — this target will not be met. Goal 7: There are 759 million people in the world who do not have access to electricity. Further 800 million or more people have poor or intermittent access to the vital energy that is required for people to live healthy and productive lives at home, work, education, health facilities, and community services.
Nearly three billion people lack access to safe cooking methods and fuels. Currently, the energy sector is responsible for over three-quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions.
While countries with low energy access may currently contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, achieving universal access to sufficient energy for productive use, industrialization, and economic growth would result in significant increases in emissions if that energy is derived from fossil fuels, such as coal-fired power and the continued use of diesel-powered generators.
The Energy Dialogue, which takes place less than two months before the crucial UN Climate Conference in Glasgow this November, COP 26, is also a critical step toward mobilizing commitments and defining the actions that will allow countries to reduce their emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050, as outlined in the Paris Agreement.