UNDP’s Steiner on the local weather stats that hold him up at night time

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New York City, the United States – The world should use trillion-dollar coronavirus pandemic restoration and stimulus measures to make sure that international locations are nudged in direction of a inexperienced economic system, Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) advised Al Jazeera.

Steiner, who’s co-chairing Friday’s High-level Dialogue on Energy (HLDE) on the UN, says the occasion is a chance for governments to take daring motion in direction of common entry to wash, reasonably priced, dependable power and to finish reliance on fossil fuels.

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Friday’s assembly on power is the primary held underneath the auspices of the General Assembly since 1981. It additionally comes weeks forward of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) later this yr, which hopes to see nations decide to bold 2030 emissions-reductions targets.

Steiner, who’s tasked with getting the UNSDGs – the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – again on observe, sat down with Al Jazeera in June initially of his second time period within the job.

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Back then, the UNDP chief emphasised the necessity for wealthier nations which might be investing a whole bunch of billions {dollars} into the inexperienced power transition to make sure that poorer ones aren’t left actually within the coal mud.

In his dialog this week with Al Jazeera Senior Business Producer Radmilla Suleymanova, Steiner urged deep-pocketed nations to satisfy their monetary guarantees to assist probably the most susceptible international locations – which endure probably the most from local weather change, although they contribute the least to it – inexperienced up.

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*This interview has been edited for readability and brevity. 

Radmilla Suleymanova: Why has it taken 40 years for UNGA to satisfy on power if it’s such a urgent concern?

Achim Steiner: Well, Friday’s HLDE [high-level dialogue on energy] is a sign that an increasing number of governments – and the non-public sector – are recognising the essential significance of this concern. But that’s to not say there has not been any motion on power within the final 40 years.

RS: What has been carried out, precisely?

AS: For occasion, the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, launched in 2011 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, sought to mobilise motion in assist of power entry, power effectivity and growing the share of renewable power.

But what makes this HLDE so vital is the truth that it’s happening on the very second we want it most. We should not on observe to satisfy the targets of the Paris Agreement [on climate mitigation] whereas we’re not on a trajectory to achieve SDG7 [which aims to guarantee that everyone on the planet has access to clean, reliable and affordable clean energy] by 2030.

RS: What are some stats that hold you up at night time?

AS: Three-quarters of all greenhouse gasoline emissions stem from power manufacturing. It is the main reason behind the local weather disaster, which hits the world’s poorest and most susceptible the toughest. And 760 million folks nonetheless reside with out electrical energy, 2.6 billion proceed cooking with soiled, unhealthy fuels annually, and near four million folks die prematurely from sickness attributable to family air air pollution.

RS: So getting it proper on SDG7 is on the high of the SDG-priority listing?

AS: All SDGs are deeply interconnected. They had been designed to move away from siloed responses to concrete issues and embrace the complexities of right this moment’s challenges. SDG7 is about attaining common entry to wash power, but additionally realising the alternatives that include it.

A woman of Afghan descent carries dry wooden for use for cooking gasoline on the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

RS: What alternatives?

AS: Well, it might create some 18 million inexperienced jobs and new livelihoods by the yr 2030.

Access to wash power is instrumental to enhance livelihoods and social mobility, gender equality, girls’s empowerment, and folks’s well being. Achieving SDG7 might quickly broaden schooling in areas like sub-Saharan Africa the place half of second-level colleges don’t have any energy. For others, renewable, clear power will improve entry to important companies like reasonably priced broadband – the “nervous system” of tomorrow’s inexperienced economic system. And lastly, an accelerated power transition affords a possible 40 p.c of the emission reductions we have to meet our local weather targets.

RS: So getting it proper on power entry is essential then?

AS: Yes, attaining common clear power entry is instrumental to achieve all of the SDGs.

RS: The pandemic has restricted international locations’ talents to achieve sustainable improvement, has it not?

Yes, COVID-19 has brought on a significant disruption to folks’s lives and livelihoods. But in a means, the pandemic has proven us what we’re able to and what’s doable: how briskly communities and international locations can react to an imminent risk.

A neighborhood well being employee carries packing containers containing a COVID-19 vaccine, at Malana village within the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, India [File: Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

RS: OK, so what have to be carried out proper now?

AS: Right now, we want daring actions together with an equitable transition to net-zero emissions that leaves nobody behind in common entry to power. Given the prospect and with correct funding, clear power will remodel lives and drive ahead human improvement particularly in areas resembling sub-Saharan Africa. It may even set the world on the correct path to deal with local weather change.

RS: What is one factor you hope governments and companies stroll away realizing from Friday’s dialogue?

AS: It is about the best way to energy our economies not simply now – however from 10 to 20 years from now. It’s the beginning of worldwide, collective motion to refocus the world’s consideration on sustainable power and speed up the power revolution. COP26 will maintain and improve this momentum. But extra must be carried out.

RS: What’s lacking?

AS: About 759 million folks on the planet lack entry to electrical energy and a pair of.6 billion folks lack entry to wash fuels and know-how for cooking, lighting or heating their properties. If present traits proceed to 2030, 660 million folks nonetheless gained’t have entry to electrical energy, and a pair of.four billion gained’t have entry to wash cooking.

RS: OK, is there any excellent news?

AS: Yes. There has been a 76 p.c discount in proposed coal energy crops for the reason that 2015 Paris Agreement. The price of renewable power is plummeting. Remarkably, it’s now cheaper to go for photo voltaic than to construct a brand new coal energy plant in almost each nation.

RS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres throughout his speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday sounded fairly alarmed on power and the local weather. Do you are feeling the identical urgency?

AS: Yes. While it’s encouraging to see a few of the commitments made this week, together with via power compacts and different climate-related bulletins, we nonetheless have a protracted approach to go to make COP26 successful and make sure that it marks a turning level in our collective efforts to deal with the local weather disaster.

Cars move on a street throughout a day with polluted air in Beijing, China [File: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

The newest UNFCCC Report on the Nationally Determined Contributions of all Parties to the Paris Agreement exhibits that the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7 levels [Celsius] of worldwide warming. And the newest IPCC report exhibits that the window we’ve got to steer the planet in the correct path is now narrowing.

RS: It feels like time is of the essence!

AS: We are almost out of time to maintain the world from going over 1.5 levels Celsius. That will set off catastrophic local weather change, first hitting the world’s most susceptible the toughest however leaving nobody untouched by this emergency. It is a “code red for humanity” within the phrases of the UN secretary-general.

We want decisive motion by all international locations, particularly the G20 [Group of 20 developed nations], to go the additional mile and successfully contribute to emission reductions. Developing international locations want reassurance that their ambition shall be met with technical and monetary assist, together with the dedication made by wealthy economies to mobilise $100bn yearly from private and non-private sources for mitigation and adaptation motion by 2020.

RS: Finally, as the previous govt director of United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), what do you suppose is the one factor that’s lacking from the worldwide dialog on sustainable power?

AS: The COVID-19 pandemic is a transparent warning. Recovery from this disaster can’t be pushed by a zero-sum recreation of economic system versus surroundings or well being versus economic system. This is a once-in-a-generation likelihood to set issues straight and I’m hopeful that this ambition shall be met. Competition is usually a good factor, however at this second of the worldwide local weather disaster, we have to prioritise cooperation and “co-investment” to create a sustainable and extra inclusive future for folks and the planet.


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