Opening Remarks at Global SDG7 Conference

Delivered at Global SDG7 Conference in Bangkok, Thailand

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,

Welcome to ESCAP and to the Global SDG7 Conference. We are delighted the DESA Under Secretary General has chosen ESCAP as the place for collaboration on SDG7. I also owe thanks to the Minister of Energy of the Kingdom of Thailand for his opening speech and ongoing partnership. Your Excellency, Marie Chatardova, the President of ECOSOC, your leadership and chairing of this conference is equally appreciated.

SDG7 is a blueprint for the development of energy in the 21st Century, based on sustainability and equality. Pursuing it effectively will underpin profound change in how we generate, consume and provide energy.

Let me share with you a few advancements which have taken place in Asia and the Pacific.

First, remarkable progress has been made to broaden electricity access. 90 per cent of the region’s population has access to basic electricity services, up from 70 per cent in 1990. Yet progress is uneven. 10 per cent of our region, some 420 million people, remain without access to electricity, deprived of the means of being economically productive.1 Sustained political will, innovative finance, business and technology approaches, and on and off grid solutions are needed to close this gap - particularly to enhance rural electrification. Electrification progresses apace but enhancing access to clean fuels and technologies has been slower. Only 50 per cent of people in this region can access clean cooking fuel: the second lowest rate among all regions.

Second, energy efficiency - the critical constituent of sustainable energy - can both enhance productivity and reduce emissions. Enhanced energy efficiency is taking hold in the Asia-Pacific as energy intensity continues to decline. While our energy intensity is still high, the annual improvement of Asia-Pacific over the 2012 to 2014 Global Tracking Framework period was 3 per cent per annum - above the SDG7 target benchmark of 2.6 per cent - and above the global average of 2.1 per cent.2 The majority of ESCAP member States have established energy efficiency or conservation targets and incorporated energy efficiency in their Paris climate commitments.

Yet we remain the most energy intensive region in the word, with 16 of the region’s economies reporting increased energy intensity from 2012 to 2014. We are exploring options to improve energy efficiency.

Third, there is cause for optimism. Deployment of renewable energy technology continues to increase at unprecedented rates with Asia-Pacific leading from the front. In 2016, China and India, commissioned over 94 gigawatts of renewable generation, 59 per cent of the global total.3 The entrenched role of fossil fuels will take some time to shift. We need to support countries to exploit their renewable energy potential through multilateral approaches – financing, technical support, joint project development and sharing the policies that have worked successfully. Asia-Pacific regional power trading, underpinned by power grids, is emerging as a key avenue to export renewable electricity from surplus to deficit countries.

Fourth, meeting our future energy needs in a sustainable way will require innovative systems thinking. Innovation and the digital revolution are merging to usher in more sustainable and consumer-friendly energy approaches through storage, electric vehicles, smart grids and blockchain energy trading. Solar power and efficient lighting are reducing energy access costs in remote areas. Replacing thermal generation plants with renewables increases efficiency, saving primary energy. Using distributed renewable generation reduces network losses. The SDG7 targets can be pursued as mutually reinforcing elements. All these elements are central to ESCAP’s regional energy cooperation and integration strategy.

The 2018 High Level Political Forum, with the theme “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”, will undertake the first global review of SDG7. Next month ESCAP will convene the 5th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, which along with the Second Ministerial Asian and Pacific Energy Forum will work to accelerate regional progress towards SDG7.

To conclude, let me add that given the diversity in Asia-Pacific, the journey required to achieve SDG7 depends on the unique challenges and opportunities each country faces. And besides cooperation among stakeholders to effectively implement conducive energy strategies, availability of innovative finance will be critical.

SDG7 is an extraordinary opportunity for our generation - one that will create jobs, promote a cleaner environment and increase the productivity of our economies. This is an opportunity we should seize.


1SE4ALL, 2017 Global Tracking Framework, http://www.se4all.org/global-tracking-framework

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3Renewable capacity highlights: http://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2017/Mar/RE_stats_highlights_2017.pdf?la=en&hash=7C535399F0994173AE445772FE62FF8C156D39DE