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Shift to clean, affordable energy critical to attaining Global Goals – UN officials

1 November 2017 – To tackle the double challenge of energy poverty and climate change – producing clean, affordable energy at a pace that will meet rising demand without environmental detriment – all stakeholders must step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems for everyone’s benefit, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday.

“Energy is the golden thread that connects all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” the Secretary-General told a High-Level Symposium on Global Energy Interconnection, at UN Headquarters today, where participants gathered to discuss ways to advance the 17 globally-agreed Goals.

Modern energy services are integral to poverty reduction, food security, public health and quality education for all. Moreover, they are the key to sustainable industrialization, healthier more efficient cities and successful climate action.

Despite this understanding, Mr. Guterres said the world is still far from achieving the vision of SDG7 on affordable and clean energy for all. Indeed, some one billion people still live without any access to any electricity at all – 500 million in Africa and more than 400 million in the Asia-Pacific region. And three billion still cook and heat their homes without the benefit of clean fuels and more efficient technologies.

Secretary-General speaking at Energy Interconnection: Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals”, organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in collaboration with the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

“So, the world needs more energy, and – in particular – more clean energy,” Mr. Guterres continued, but stressed that as this need rises, the world is experiencing rising temperatures and in 2016, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide surged to a new high.
Recalling the sobering report issued just yesterday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which found that pledges made under the Paris Agreement are only a third of what is required by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the Secretary-General said falling short of the agreed 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise would be “catastrophic.”

Against this background, and in light of the devastating hurricane season that had just battered the Caribbean and similar extreme weather events elsewhere, urgent climate action is needed. “That means transforming the world’s energy systems. It means promoting modern technologies than can fulfil energy needs without polluting the environment and pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” Mr. Guterres explained.

He said today’s Symposium could help point the way, as it would feature both policy- and technical-level presentations on how to strengthen global energy interconnection through the deployment of smart grids.

“With smart grids it is now feasible to generate, transmit and distribute power efficiently, cutting transmission losses and providing clean, affordable, economically viable and environmentally sound energy services,” he stated.

Echoing the Secretary-General’s sense of urgency, Liu Zhenmin, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 SDGs and 169 targets, puts a strong emphasis on inter-linkages. As such, progress in implementing SDG7 on energy is bound to impact delivery on other Goals.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin speaks at
Energy Interconnection: Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals”, organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in collaboration with the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

“Likewise, without increased access to modern energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy, there will be no progress on climate action,” he said, emphasizing: “So, we need to move from silo to synergy.” And in that regard, the UN is reforming its development system in response to the 2030 Agenda to provide more coherent support to Member States.

Turning to the role of SDG7 in the broader context of the 2030 Agenda, Mr. Liu highlighted three key points:

  • Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all is fundamental to a peaceful, inclusive and sustainable work, and a necessary investment in our collective future;
  • Energy is inextricably linked to most of the global challenges now and in the future, including poverty, food security, clean water, infrastructure, public health, education, economic growth, youth’s and women’s empowerment, and climate change; and
  • Access to modern energy must go beyond residential power access. It must aim to unlock new entrepreneurial opportunities for the growing workforce, so that they can become the next global engine for the new economies of the future.

“New technologies, new business models, and new approaches to capacity building are all needed to transform the world and achieve global sustainable development. The global energy interconnection, through smart grids, offers one such avenue,” he said.

But such global energy interconnection, or GEI, can only work in partnership. “The technology for worldwide energy connectivity is there. The barriers are institutional, not technological,” stated Mr. Liu, calling for a change in mindset, and stressing that decisive progress can only be made through partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources are indispensable to succ

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58013

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UN sees &#39worrying&#39 gap between Paris climate pledges and emissions cuts needed

31 October 2017 – Pledges made under the Paris Agreement are only a third of what is required by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, pointing to the urgent need to boost efforts by both government and non-government actors, the United Nations environment wing said on Tuesday.

“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Erik Solheim in a press release.

The Paris accord, adopted in 2015 by 195 countries, seeks to limit global warming in this century to under 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

“If we invest in the right technologies, ensuring that the private sector is involved, we can still meet the promise we made to our children to protect their future. But we have to get on the case now,” the UNEP chief added.

The eighth edition of UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in in Bonn next month, warns that as things stand, even full implementation of current national pledges makes a temperature rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 very likely.

Should the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris accord in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker.

The pace of growth in carbon dioxide emissions have slowed, driven in part by renewable energy, notably in China and India, raising hopes that emissions have peaked, as they must by 2020, to remain on a successful climate trajectory.

To avoid overshooting the Paris goals, governments – including by updating their Paris pledges – the private sector, cities and others need to urgently pursue actions that will bring deeper and more-rapid cuts.

Source: The Emissions Gap Report 2017 | UNEP

The report also says that adopting new technologies in key sectors, such as agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transport, at investment of under $100 per tonne, could reduce emissions by up to 36 gigatonnes per year by 2030, more than sufficient to bridge the gap.

However, it warns that other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are still rising, and a global economic growth spurt could easily put carbon dioxide emissions back on an upward trajectory.

Strong action on hydrofluorocarbons, through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and other short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon – could also make a real contribution.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57999

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Carbon dioxide levels surge to new high in 2016, UN weather agency reports

30 October 2017 – Levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016, the United Nations weather agency announced on Monday.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), issued the warning in Geneva, at the launch of the organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The report indicates that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015.

“We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Mr. Taalas, telling journalists that it is time for governments to fulfil the pledges they made in Paris in 2015 to take steps to reduce global warming.

Emphasizing that the new figures reveal “we are not moving in the right direction at all,” he added that “in fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement and this all demonstrates that there is some urgent need to raise the ambition level of climate mitigation, if we are serious with this 1.5 to 2C target of Paris Agreement.”

The report’s findings are based on observations taken around the globe by the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme. It found that rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have the potential to initiate unprecedented changes in climate systems, leading to “severe ecological and economic disruptions.”

Population growth, intensified agricultural practices, increases in land use and deforestation, industrialization and associated energy use from fossil fuel sources have all contributed to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial era, beginning in 1750.

Oksana Tarasova Chief of Atmospheric Environment Research Division at WMO, explained that last year’s elevated CO2 levels happened because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Niño event.

The climatic phenomenon is associated with warmer-than-average sea temperatures that is believed to be responsible for triggering droughts in tropical regions, as well as unprecedented hurricanes and wildfires elsewhere around the globe.

Atmospheric change occurring 10 to 20 times faster than ever observed in the planet’s history

However, at 3.3 parts per million, the 2016 increase in carbon dioxide levels was significantly higher than an El Nino-influenced spike in 1998, which was measured at 2.7 ppm.

To put that into perspective, WMO says that before the industrial era, a CO2 change of 10 parts per million took between 100 and 200 years to happen.

“What we are doing now with the atmosphere is 10 to 20 times faster than ever been observed in the history of the planet,” Ms. Tarasova said.

According to the WMO report, which covers all atmospheric emissions, CO2 concentrations are now 145 per cent of pre-industrial levels.

After carbon dioxide, the second most important greenhouse gas is methane; its levels rose last year but slightly less than in 2014.

Nitrous oxide is the third most warming gas; it increased slightly less last year than over the last decade.

The release of the WMO report coincides with Tuesday’s Emissions Gap Report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which tracks how governments are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Together, both publications will serve as a scientific base for policy decisions at the UN climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany, beginning Monday 7 November.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57988

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