Remarks at BMA Sustainable Development Goals Conclave

Posted March 8, 2022

UNDP Sierra Leone

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on this very special day and on this very important topic.

We are continuously confronted with the devastating effects of climate change – especially on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people on the planet.

2010 to 2020 was the hottest decade on record. The recent IPCC report published last week yet again underscores a bleak road ahead if we don’t take rapid action to mitigate emissions and adapt our communities.  

The report shows that around 40% of humanity live in areas that are already highly vulnerable to climate change.

This paints a picture of the future we are looking into if we fail to intensify and accelerate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We must drastically step-up efforts to help communities and countries to adapt to the current, devastating impacts of climate change. 

In Glasgow, many countries – especially small emitters – stepped-up, significantly raising their climate ambition while committing to bold, wide-ranging climate action.

 A large country like India announced targets to increase reliance on renewables and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy, including to adopt a net zero target by 2070.  

UNDP India is supporting translation of these national ambitions to action plans at sub-national levels by assisting in development of State Action Plans on Climate Change and strengthening capacities for their effective implementation 

However, the picture coming out of COP26 is an imperfect one, as the world is still far short of where it needs to be to stem the impacts of climate change. 

What we need, is to rapidly accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon future, that simultaneously supports access to clean energy for all. 

Access to clean energy for all is at the heart of the solution to the climate challenge. Evidence shows that energy can be an essential multiplier for all the Sustainable Development Goals including health, education, gender equality and economic prosperity. 

However, some 759 million people still lack access to electricity, and 2.6 billion live without clean cooking options, disproportionately hurting women and girls.

In India for example, 98% of the population have access to energy – 32% coming from renewable energy - but only 68% have access to clean cooking1

A just energy transition that enables access to clean energy for all is the answer to both tackling the climate crisis; and ending energy poverty, which will reduce inequalities, unlock economic opportunities, and empower billions of people across the world. 

Supporting countries to achieve this transition to a green economy is at the heart of UNDP’s mission. 

In India, UNDP has supported vulnerable communities in remote rural locations with access to clean energy towards improving lives and livelihoods.

We are: 

  • Strengthening health and educational services through solar energy,  
  • empowering women with new livelihood opportunities such as electric vehicles, food processing, etc. 
  • We are also currently in discussions with the Government of India to develop reskilling initiatives for coal mining dependent communities. 

UNDP’s Climate Promise 

Through UNDP’s Climate Promise, we have assisted 120 countries make their global climate pledges under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change – also called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) - more ambitious, more inclusive, and ready for implementation.

To date, 94 of these countries have submitted their updated NDC to the UNFCCC.

We are focusing our next wave of support on implementing these pledges.  

We have brought together over 35 partners and have identified investment potential within the private sector for delivering NDC sectoral targets for the energy sector, agriculture sector and water sector.   

One of the things we have seen through this work is that vulnerable and low-emitting countries are demonstrating leadership, significantly raising climate ambition - despite the COVID-19 pandemic and their disproportionate vulnerability to climate impacts. 

But this ambition hinges on countries being able to realize these targets through comprehensive implementation.

Looking towards COP27 and beyond, significant progress on NDC implementation must be demonstrated to continue this momentum and provide signals of hope 

UNDP is also supporting more than 70 countries to develop Integrated National Financing Frameworks to mobilize and align all sources of finance with their COVID-19 recovery plans and revise medium-term development plans, in support of simultaneously delivering on their sustainable development and climate goals. 

NDCs can provide a roadmap not only for climate action, but also for key drivers of sustainable development – from energy and agriculture to transportation and job creation. 

A just energy transition

The climate crisis is driven by how we produce and consume energy.

According to the World Resources Institute1,energy consumption is by far the biggest source of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for three quarters of such emissions globally.[2]

And it’s a crisis that hits the poorest people the hardest: the IPCC reports shows that the significant increase in extreme weather events is unfairly impacting the most vulnerable parts of the world. 

UNDP is supporting developing countries to transform their energy systems in a way that advance not only their climate plans but unlocks green socio-economic growth that benefits everyone in society.  

To do so, we focus on supporting governments to design and implement the policies, regulations and market mechanisms that will attract the large-scale clean energy investments needed to advance sustainable development.  

The new UNDP Sustainable Energy Hub represents the organization’s systematic and programmatic approach to respond to the energy and climate change agenda.

The Sustainable Energy Hub builds on decades of work advancing sustainable energy access in the world. It will mobilize partners and harness experience, expertise and innovation to help 500 million additional people gain access to clean energy by 2025, prioritizing countries and regions with the highest levels of energy poverty.

It’s a bold target, but nothing less will do. 

The first objective of the Hub is increasing energy access for those furthest behind.

By speeding up investment in distributed renewable energy solutions, especially for those hardest to reach and in crisis contexts, we aim to increase access to clean and affordable energy. 

Second, we will work to accelerate the transition to clean, affordable and sustainable energy through systems changes that support inclusive, green economies, particularly in countries with low levels of renewable energy generation or poor energy-efficiency improvement rates.

UNDP will work to ensure that such transitions are fair, their impact on the vulnerable understood and mitigated, without losing sight of the urgency.

The issue of stranded assets is critically linked to the pace of the transition.

In a lot of cases, the very fact that stranded assets will be created, reduces the ambition of the pace of transition for social, economic and political reasons.  

For instance, as we embark on the transition to net-zero in countries like India, there is a distinct possibility that thermal power plants as well as coal mining considered essential today might become stranded assets in the future.  

Therefore, it is essential to have a wider societal dialogue so that intra-country discussions on climate equity and justice are not compromised as countries embark on the achievement of their climate goals.

This will also enable a dialogue on equitable burden sharing of the costs

International Women’s Day 

Before closing my remarks, I want to take the opportunity of International Women’s Day today to talk about the many ways in which a just energy transition empowers women. 

We have already mentioned that the lack of access to clean cooking solutions is a crisis that primarily affects women and children.

Accelerating the deployment of clean cooking solutions such as electrical or more efficient stoves will not only improve the lives of billions of women by freeing up time that can be used for education, income-generating activities, or rest and leisure; it will also save millions of women’s and children’s lives each year.

Beyond clean cooking, access to clean energy can empower women by opening up new economic opportunities. I want to give you two examples of UNDP-supported projects in the State of Jharkhand in India.  

  • In the remote village of Khunti, women entrepreneurs produce face masks and sanitary pads thanks to solar-powered, electric sewing machines – enabling women to earn an income while providing women in rural areas with much-needed menstrual hygiene products.  
  • In the village of Mandi, UNDP has partnered with a women farmers’ organization to install a solar-powered refrigeration room. The women can now store excess production to sell at nearby markets, as well as seeds for the coming sowing season –providing an income as well as a safety net for these women, who now know they can rely on these seeds in the future. 

 Closing 

I want to conclude my remarks by looking towards the end of the year: the COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheik, in Egypt.  

Our window for decisive action on climate change is closing fast.

Climate change is the crisis that defines our era. Every country is exposed to its devastating impacts.  

And the answer to this crisis can only be a global one – no country, no organization can do it alone. We must all work together – governments, private companies, financial institutions – to achieve a just energy transition that will power a better future for all. 

Thank you.