Statement at the 8th International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development, Opening Session

Delivered at the opening session of the 8th International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the Eighth International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development.

The Asia-Pacific region, which I represent, is making concerted efforts to transition to a green and low carbon economy through adopting sustainable energy. This work has built on successive forums since the 2010 Energy Efficiency Forum held here in Astana, and is now firmly anchored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. The transition to sustainable energy will be central to the success of both the SDGs and the 2 degree target under Paris. Yesterday’s ministerial declaration reaffirms our collective commitment to delivering a global energy transition.

The Asia-Pacific region will, to a large extent, determine the progress of the global move to sustainable energy over the coming decades. Consuming almost half the world’s energy, our region is expected to continue its strong energy demand growth. We have our challenges. The region is replete with energy, but these resources are not evenly distributed, and the interconnection of national energy networks is at an early stage. Fossil fuels still dominate the region’s energy mix. Despite the recent growth, renewables still only account for just over 12 per cent of total energy consumption. There is much room to improve energy efficiency as energy intensity in the region is 60 percent higher than Europe and 16 percent higher than the world average. Across the region 420 million people still do have access to modern energy and over 2 billion lack access to clean fuels for cooking and heating.

Tackling the region’s common energy challenges calls for sustained regional cooperation. Three broad objectives shape the region’s approach to energy policy. The first is the need to secure increased amounts of energy to underpin economic growth and improve citizens’ health and well-being. The second is to ensure that the energy mix provides reliable, affordable and secure energy. Last but not least, the deleterious impacts of climate change and pollution from fossil fuels must be addressed. These objectives are closely interlinked with the 2030 Agenda through SDG7 – increasing the use of renewable energy, doubling the rate of energy efficiency and achieving universal energy access. The most recent global scorecard of SE4ALL shows that, with the exception of energy efficiency, global and regional progress is not sufficient to reach these targets by 2030. As the ministerial discussions yesterday highlighted, we need to move beyond “business as usual” policies to accelerate and broaden the energy transition.

However the Asia-Pacific is not standing still. Our transition to sustainable energy is underway. The region’s deployment of new renewable energy accounts for almost half of the global total. We have vast reserves of untapped potential in hydro, wind and solar energy, particularly here in Central Asia which can be exploited to meet our future energy needs. Many Asia-Pacific countries are hubs for innovation in clean energy and manufacture much of the clean energy technology for the world. So the potential offered by the region to the global energy transition is immense. We are working to exploit it. The region increased its renewable capacity by 42 per cent from 1990 to 2014. In 2016, half of the world’s new solar capacity came from one country, China.

Yet as we make the necessary investment in new infrastructure needed to deliver renewable energy, we also need to address the risks posed by stranded assets. In a carbon constrained world and with the cost advantages shifting to new technologies, fossil fuel infrastructure and reserves may become unviable before the end of their anticipated lifespan. With this in mind, it is vital we plan for this transition and encourage investors to develop early exit strategies from assets at risk of becoming stranded.

The diversity of the region means many of ESCAP’s member States have made great strides towards a sustainable energy future while others are only at the beginning of the journey. For instance, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea and China have recently made large investments in the development of smart grids to improve system efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Regional cooperation to share knowledge, support investment, improve technological expertise and capacity, and guide administrative reform is needed to fast track the transition to sustainable energy. To support this, ESCAP is working on multilateral energy cooperation in several dimensions, including by enhancing regional energy connectivity, sharing of policy experiences and building capacities.

ESCAP member States have established an intergovernmental Committee on Energy to reach consensus regional energy solutions, with a particular focus on SDG7 and advancing regional energy connectivity. Recently, during our 73rd Commission, which gathered ministerial representatives from member States, we published a theme study on Regional Cooperation for Sustainable Energy in Asia and the Pacific to spur debate and inform policy development. It provides a clear assessment of the factors that could support our region’s sustainable energy transition. The development of a regional cooperation framework on sustainable energy is recommended, building on the newly established Energy Committee.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations’ regional commissions have a clear mandate to assist their Member States in integrating the different dimensions of sustainable development, providing technical support for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and supporting the intergovernmental agreements needed for real progress. ESCAP will use this mandate to deliver on our commitment to sustainable energy, to ensure global commitments are transformed into tangible regional sustainable energy strategies to power greener, more inclusive economies that respect the needs of future generations. I look forward to hearing your debates on these important topics.

I thank you.