News from Day 2 of Sustainable Energy for All Forum at UN in New York City

Magdalena A K Muir

Day 2 was focused on reporting from the SE4ALL initiative, in addition to high level panels focusing on specific issues such as the Small Island Developing States, linkages for women, children and health, and global leadership. Brief notes and highlights are provided first from the SEA4ALL reports to the UN Member States, who were all in attendance for the morning presentations.


SE4ALL Reporting:


Opening remarks

H.E. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, announce launch of UN Decade for Sustainable Energy for All. Discuss benefit of women and children, and the hope this high level forum will be a continuing experience. H.E. Jim Yong Kim, President of World Bank, provide a brief video message referring to World Bank


Official Launch of UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All

H.E. John Ashe, President of General Assembly of the United Nations refers to launch, disproportionate impact on poor and developing countries. Refer to energy being a standalone goal within zero draft of the Sustainable Development Goals that was issued on June 2.

H.E. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland was next. In his remarks, President Grimsson refers to the common journey we all experience, which is the vision of creating a better life and preserving the earth through practical technology measures. He then referred to Iceland going from poorest nation in Europe, and being classed as a developing nation by the UN, to being a country powered by clean energy. There was reference to technology investments in wind, solar and geothermal that can now be scaled to the needs of the country, and capable of being scaled from  scale of family to small town to country. Technologies becoming more viable, and it is not possible to transform countries’ energy systems in ways that were not previously possible. For example, there was a reference to the successes of China in moving away from a coal based economy, and examples raised from other countries. Finally, he mentioned the success of this SE4ALL meeting and congratulates UN and World Bank on this initiative, and offers Iceland as an example and a vision of what is possible.


Special Address: Inventing and Investing in a Sustainable Future

H.E. Andres Peibalgs,  Commissioner for Development, European Union, referred to $80 million technology investment fund, and other funds designed to leverage larger private and public investment, and the focus on poor, rural development, and fragile economies in Africa. There was also reference to Rwanda and its key national focus on renewable energy. Europe will be supporting Rwanda with more than $200 million of investment, with future collaboration and partnerships to achieve more.

Zhang Yuqing, Vice Administrator, National Energy Administration, China refers to this SE4ALL, and opportunities for energy efficiency, provide energy and reduce poverty within society. China is one of supporters of SE4ALL initiatives. China is a large and populous country, and this will assist internally with energy poverty and consistent with energy goals. There was reference to large Chinese investment, and how it is resolving many problems. The internal electricity grid is being extended. Sustainable energy now accounts for 30 % of their internal energy, ranking first in the world for certain measures for water, renewable energy etc.. Going forward, China will push sustainable energy, referring to future goals and measures. Right now economic development and environmental protection are very big challenges in China, and it is willing to share these experiences with other countries. Going forward, China will try to improve the development of sustainable energy, and open dialogues with other sectors and sustainable development.

Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank.  Refers to region, its abundant energy resources, and limited energy access for portions of population (15% of Latin America). Refer to efforts in countries like Nicaragua, and their overall budget for Latin America, and regional events. In cooperation with UNDP they are completing gap analysis. There are also other tools like Climate Scope developed for Latin America to allow parties to assess opportunities for renewable energy within each countries (which is so successful that being launched worldwide). There was reference to regional goals for energy access, and national energy access plans, expecting 26 holistic national plans, that will result in closing last gap for providing energy access to the poorest. There is also a discussion of measures to encourage private investment in renewable energy including public and private partnerships, incubator models, etc.. Reference was also made to setting short term concrete goals to achieve this objective.

Sir Sumo Chakrabarti, President, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, referred to the bank’s initial role in assisting the transition for central and eastern European countries after fall of Berlin wall. The bank has now expanded to Asia and northern Africa, referring to its current scope from Casablanca to Vladivostok. The bank is private sector focused. Sustainability was always a key issue at the bank due to the environmental legacy of centrally planned economies in eastern and central Europe. Therefore sustainability is built into the bank’s mandate and echoes European directives and policies. Significant project financing, including 2/3 private financing, and results in learnings such as 1) prices and subsidies matter, 2) regulatory framework and institutions matter; and 3) long term approaches required. Refer to importance of leadership, and example of approach of Serbia to rebuilding from recent flooding. Refer to what makes an organization think and take sustainability seriously, and how to integrate throughout structure. Therefore need clear strategy, have the right instruments and tools, and mainstreaming throughout all work and tasks. In the future, on track to meeting Rio+ 20 commitments, and managing governments recently approved medium term goals and plans. Refer to linkages to and support for energy and related issues of water and building materials.


Third Meeting of the Sustainable Energy for All Advisory Board

Chad Holliday, Chair of Executive Committee of SE4ALL and Chair of Bank of America referred to importance of the task and referred to presentations yesterday by SEWA (see yesterday’s blog) where women in rural India used renewable energy for salt extraction and to extend their agricultural working days.

Kandeh Yumkella, SRDG and CEO of SE4ALL made brief remarks due to time, referring to getting the structures right to bring in private sector investment and its importance to the SE4ALL.

Progress reports from Advisory Board Committee from variety of parties included more references to public private investment, and the role of regional banks and national parties. For example, Naoko Ishii, CEO of GEF referred to creating platforms for accelerating this investment.

Adnan Amin, Director General, IRENA, referred to the transformative change for renewable energy, due to meeting need for energy access and cost effective renewable energy technologies, high levels of growth and increased energy needs within these countries, and de-carbonization of economies. He also noted opportunities due to lower cost of technologies and increased experience with deployment. To provide a sense of what happening, for past four years, the primary incremental energy growth globally is renewable energy, with knowledge framework and technical dissemination being need and required to allow rational choices. Therefore, need information of available technology, regulatory framework including costs, and lessons from success. Reference was made to Remap 2030 that indicates, among other matters, that renewable energy is finally cost competitive.

Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director General, EuropeAid, EC discussed energy access and the role for renewable energy in rural areas and the role of civil society. He then referred to full participation of all members of civil society including women.


The Way Forward

Concluding remarks were provided by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, and his own experiences and observations during his travels, including solar panels on tents in remote areas.

This concluded the formal SE4ALL discussions and broad attendance of UN Member States. For the remainder of the day, there were specific panels, several of which were highlighted as well.


World Environment Day Special Event: Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Clean Energy

Introductory remarks by Elliott Harris, Director of UNEP (New York) that highlighted specific issues pertaining to SIDS. UNEP reports launched at part of celebration of World Environment Day, include a Barbados Green Economy Scoping Synthesis report   which will serve as an example of how this island and other SIDS can adjust to climate change. Another UNEP report is the SIDS Forsight Report Energy highlighted as area where SIDS where renewable energy can assist in reducing emissions and thus climate impacts.

The role of Samoa in hosting the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States which will be held in Apia, Samoa from September 1 to 4, 2014. A June 5, 2014 blog on the conference website also discusses the economic vulnerabilities of these islands, in addition to the ecological vulnerabilities.

Ravinesh Nand, Senior Energy Analysis Department of Energy, Fiji, discussed the impact of climate change on this island and other Pacific islands, and referred to all efforts for Fiji to strengthen green energy initiatives, and development of partnerships to assist these islands.

Venkat Ramana Putti, Senior Energy Specialist, World Bank discusses specific bank initiatives for SIDS, and specific activities like knowledge network and capacity development that span all islands. The World Bank is also partnering with other UN agencies like IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency). He notes that SIDS are active participants with World Bank on the SE4ALL initiatives, and this will be a future area of cooperation as a high impact area.

Elizabeth Press, Deputy Director, Innovation and Technology Center, IRENA, discuss their activities for SIDS, which share common issues for other regions. This includes the provision of numerous IRENA reports for SIDS. Later this month, IRENA will discuss initiative that will be launched for SIDS in anticipation for UN Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York City.

Sheila Watson, Director of Environment and Research at the FIA Foundation, discussed the Global Fuel Initiative which uses existing technology to focus on vehicle transport that can result in reductions in fuel use for transport and greenhouse gas emissions. This would be an important area of future partnership with SIDS.

The meeting concluded with a recognition that the SIDS are active participants in addressing all changes, including climate change and cleaner energy. However, they also are seeking partnerships to support their activities, which is one of the focuses of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa.


Human Face of SE4ALL: Energy, Women, Children and Health

Global Campaign Announcement

H.E. Sir Mark Lyall Grant, UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, and H.E. Hans Brattskar, State Secretary/Deputy Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway discussed the importance of energy, women, children and health, the launch of the two year campaign with the focus, and the leadership of their two countries on these issues. Mr Brattskar introduced the launch of Norway’s related two year campaign for gender equality and women’s rights.

Helen Clark, Administrator, UN Development Program (UNDP), discussed the specific importance of energy access for the most vulnerable, including women and children; and relevance for health clinics and children’s education. There was a discussion of the SE4ALL and the Sustainable Development Goals in the post 2015 period as suitable platforms for enhancing energy access, and commend the focus in the first two years on women and children.

Laskshi Puri, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women, discussed its support of and role in this program. Its focus on gender equality and how energy access can support that. Women are half of humanity, and part of the half of humanity that lack sufficient access to energy. It is a matter of life and death for women and children: there is increased mortality on one side, and improved health and wellbeing on the other side. A large amount of women and children’s time is spent on subsistence tasks of gathering fuel and water, and precludes them from paid employment and participation in social and political affairs. These subsistence tasks also exposes them to violence, while use of firewood and other biofuels in the homes can adversely affect their health and nutrition. So access to improved and sustainable energy services has dramatic impacts on health, water, sanitation, transportation etc.. Woman can also be empowered by their participation in sustainable energy. UN Women then referred to its own current and future campaigns which will link to this initiative.

Babatunde Osotimehim, Executive Director, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) discussed health issues relating to energy, particularly maternal and infant health. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of the World Health Organisation raised the health implications of poor energy choices including cardiovascular disease and respiratory ailments. Improving energy access by providing clean energy would address these major health issues. To remedy these health issues, then need to eliminate pollution at home caused by cooking, heating and light; and reduce pollution in cities arising from the transportation and the built environment.


Remap2030 Launch by IRENA

Video and oral presentation by Adnan Z Admin, Director General, IRENA, on the Remap 2030.


Global Leaders Panels

Global Leaders Panels: Catalysing Large Scale Financing and Investment for SE4ALL.

This panel began panel with a discussion of functional committee under to SE4ALL, referring to 5 Trillion of money available for investment in developing countries and the need to divert some of that to renewable energy. Refer to green principles that many banks have adhered to. Refer to co-lending and subordinated lending, which will leverage further financing, and going to future shifts away from primary lending to credit and guarantee structures.

Abyd Karmali, Managing Director, Climate Finance, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, observed that interest in this type of lending (energy, emerging markets and infrastructure) but fundamental to close risk gaps. For green bonds, have an opportunity to standardize an asset that readily understandable for investment, transparency and process. For DFI, then have private risk sharing to allow removable of some risks, and refer to global innovation on risk finance. Aggregation is important to get sufficient scale to interest investors and reduce transaction costs. Insurance allows some opportunities to be investable.

Luciano Coutinho, President, Brazilian Development Bank, reiterated the role of banks and insurance. In addition, he referred to the tax treatment of renewable energy as being key factor, and discussed Brazil’s practise of extra tariff in the electricity grid that is used to fund public and private investment, which was very successful in responding the aggregation challenge raised by prior speak. Another issue was hedging for foreign exchange and unforeseen risk, which could be done through public and private partnerships. Further discussion ensued from civil society and developing country perspective.


Additional video links

Opening Remarks and Official Launch of the UN Decade for Sustainable Energy for All (June 5th)

Ban Ki-moon, Sustainable Energy for All Forum (Closing remarks) (June 5th)

World Environment Day special event: SIDS and Clean Energy (June 5th)

Launch of REmap 2030 – A Renewable Energy Roadmap by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) (June 5th)