UN intergovernmental meeting champions faster, cleaner energy transition in Asia-Pacific

The Second Session of the Committee on Energy closed today at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) with stronger commitments to power the region with sustainable energy.

The three-day meeting followed the 10th International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development. Delegates from across the region and sectors investigated core challenges to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7: Affordable and Clean Energy as well as solutions capitalizing on the region’s expertise, leadership and cooperation.

Opening the Committee, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said, “Access to electricity in the region is improving and likely to reach close to the 2030 target of 100 per cent access. However, without accelerating the uptake of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and promoting clean cooking, we will simply not achieve SDG7 and the other Sustainable Development Goals.”

With the economy rapidly expanding, energy demand in the Asia-Pacific region has almost doubled since 2000. Overreliance on fossil fuels has seen greenhouse gas emissions increase, rapidly leading to climate change. Affordable and secure energy supplies are critical to maintain growth in the region while providing sustainable, modern energy.

To address the rising energy needs in the region, Ms. Alisjahbana cited four strategic policy pathways to hasten the transformation of the energy sector: new approaches to energy financing, energy connectivity, technology and political leadership. “Let us not forget the enormous potential of our region for the coming energy transition. We have an abundance of clean energy resources such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass. We have a unique opportunity to enhance our cross-border energy interconnection and exploit these untapped renewable energy resources. Our region is home to many of the leading companies working on energy technology and innovation,” she added.

Though SDG7 targets are advancing, attaining universal access to clean cooking has been particularly challenging. Nearly 44 per cent of people in Asia-Pacific—over two billion—still lack access to clean cooking fuel and are exposed to indoor air pollution – a major cause of premature deaths among women and children. At a session on tackling this hidden problem, the Committee examined the greatest challenges and obstacles in moving away from unclean cooking while analysing the impacts of clean cooking models and solutions.

The biennial Committee also focused on the energy sector’s implications on climate change through cleaner use of fossil fuels. Reducing carbon emissions through a shift from coal to natural gas power plants is a key strategy to support pathways for climate stabilization.

“Energy needs in Asia-Pacific are growing more quickly than anywhere else in the world. Thailand is no exception and places great importance on regional cooperation to build a sustainable energy future. We need to meet the increased energy demands by securing energy supplies and ensuring that energy systems are available and affordable, yielding lower carbon emissions,” remarked H.E. Mr. Sarawut Kaewtathip, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy, Thailand at the Committee.

The Committee also discussed the Regional road map on power system connectivity: promoting cross-border electricity connectivity for sustainable development, to examine challenges, opportunities and strategies to advance energy cooperation and grid connectivity in Asia and

the Pacific. Member States reviewed the road map positively and provided feedback for its further development.

On the sidelines of the Committee today, a Government-Business Dialogue on the Energy Transition was held with ministerial officials joining leading business representatives at the 4th Smart Energy Transformation Asia regional conference in BITEC. The session demonstrated the opportunity for engagement between government and private industry, and helped participants identify solutions and strategies that will shape the energy industry in the coming years.