Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the National Energy Administration of China and the Government of Sichuan Province for inviting me to address the 5th East Asian Summit Clean Energy Forum.
It has been long recognized that the global energy system needs to transform towards a model based on sustainable development.
Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the unsustainability of our development trajectory to date and opened up new thinking about the future of cities, transport and energy. Governments underscored this point in Glasgow, where they agreed to phase down the use of unabated coal and to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.
Accelerating renewable energy has an important place in the COVID-19 recovery process. Renewable energy investment, as well as reducing emissions, can create more jobs per dollar invested.
As the world emerges from the shadow of the pandemic, energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions are quickly bouncing back. Without long-term structural changes, we will continue the unsustainable pre-pandemic pathway.
Therefore, the time is now to carefully reassess our energy development trajectory, bearing in mind its relationship with the climate crisis.
Strong energy demand will continue for developing countries in the East Asian region as their economies expand. It is predicted that energy demand for East Asia will increase by 40 per cent by 2050.
The unfortunate reality is that fossil fuels remain a significant part of the energy mix, making up three-quarters of electricity generation.
South-east Asia is one of the few regions where coal-fired generation has been expanding, with close to 20 GW of new generating capacity under construction.
To be compatible with net-zero by mid-century but also with intermediate targets for 2030, we will need to find a way to create a bridge from the current fossil-based energy system to a clean energy system, utilizing renewables, energy storage, green power grids, along with new technologies such as hydrogen and advanced battery storage.
Most importantly, the energy transition needs to speed up significantly and broaden its scope to promote resilient economies and societies for a more inclusive and equitable world.
The transition can thus no longer be limited to incremental steps. It must become a transformational effort with rapid upscaling and implementation of all available technologies.
It needs to establish medium- and long-term integrated energy planning strategies, define decarbonization action targets and adopt policies and regulations to shape energy systems.
Therefore, the challenges of the energy transition are not just about adding more renewables to the mix but integrating energy flows, reducing waste, storing surplus energy, raising efficiency, lowering production costs and finding new production technologies for energy-intensive industries.
Integrating energy means bringing together new ideas, new energy sources, new technologies and new business models.
In this process, international and regional cooperation is essential to facilitate sharing experiences and good practices. ESCAP has been working with its member States to support their transition to sustainable energy.
We have developed SDG 7 roadmaps for ten countries, providing detailed analysis on how to reach the targets for affordable and clean energy.
I hope that this forum will allow all relevant stakeholders to engage in a dialogue and share lessons learned to help realize an energy transition that will protect the environment, confront climate change and reduce the threat of future pandemics.
Thank you very much.