Sustainable Energy for All Forum

Statement by H.E. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly, at the Third Sustainable Energy for All Forum

5 April 2017


Ms. Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL),


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by thanking the Forum organizers for giving me the opportunity to address the 3rd Sustainable Energy for All Forum before it’s closing.

Speaking at this juncture puts me in the happy position of having observed the high-levels of activity, ambition, commitment to action and yes, energy, that the more than 1,200 participants have brought to this Forum.

And it enables me to congratulate the organisers and especially you the participants for the splendid success of this great gathering

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we meet today, nearly 1.1 billion people around the world do not have access to electricity.

Fossil fuels account for the great majority of CO2 emissions, and global temperatures are reaching new heights.

The impacts of Climate Change are upon us. Terrible drought and famine currently affecting the African nations of Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan – and devastating mud slides in Colombia last weekend are manifestations of long predicted extreme weather patterns. Large parts of my own country, Fiji, were devastated last year by the strongest tropical cyclone to ever make landfall  in the Southern Hemisphere. How quickly hard-won development gains can be reversed by these catastrophic weather events.

With global attention rightly shifting towards implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and of course the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the imperative is there for the international community to use the transformative potential of sustainable energy to combat the adverse effects of climate change, and at the same time achieve universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all.

Coming from a small island developing state like Fiji, the importance of the clean energy revolution could not be clearer.

For most Small Island Developing States, access to affordable energy remains a major constraint to sustainable economic growth and development, with most SIDS being dependent on imported fossil fuels for electricity. Given the existential threat that climate change poses to their homes, they must be empowered to sustainably utilise the renewable energy resources, particularly solar, water, wind and geothermal, with which they are endowered.

Properly harnessed, these resources could meet the majority of these countries’ agricultural, industrial and household needs, while also decreasing electricity costs, and creating decent jobs.

Doing so requires further improvements in cost competitiveness, and it requires international support to enable developing countries to transition their energy systems, including through capacity-building and technical expertise for renewable energy policies and projects.

In order for the international community to drive progress at the speed and scale necessary to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7, a number of critical and complementary steps present themselves, not only to transform the global energy system, but also to cause the multiplier effects in helping us to meet all other SDGs.

Firstly, we must establish policy and regulatory frameworks to mobilize collective action to drive the sustainable energy transformation. This includes by setting national energy efficiency targets, developing integrated energy plans that feed into the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement and setting clear energy price signals for the market in order to create an enabling investment climate to help close the energy access gap.

Secondly, we must build strategic and innovative partnerships that bring together Governments, civil society, the private sector, academic and scientific communities, and financial institutions to drive inclusive and coordinated action for sustainable energy and development.

Thirdly, we must work with the private sector on SDG 7 implementation, including by encouraging private companies to set corporate energy efficiency goals, to purchase renewable and clean energy, and to pursue advances across the energy sector that can help drive SDG action.

Fourthly, we must work together to mobilize the estimated US$770 billion needed annually until 2030 to drive the transition to renewable energy and achieve SDG 7. This includes by mobilizing investments from public, private, blended and alternative sources to help close gaps in the financial supply chain for sustainable energy, and meet internationally-agreed climate goals.

We must ensure that we take advantage of the current  window of opportunity that exists to direct investments towards sustainable energy infrastructure, as a result of the historically-low interest rates, and large pools of capital assets in low-yield investments.

And finally, we must look at opportunities to harness the rapid pace of advances in innovation and disruptive technology to leapfrog high-carbon models, spur green economic growth, and drive the sustainable energy transformation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In all of this, of course, political leadership is vital.

And so too are initiatives such as the Sustainable Energy for All Forum, to catalyse the collaboration and cooperation necessary to achieve clean and affordable energy for all.

In this regard, I believe the leadership of Sustainable Energy for All is critical, particularly in bringing together broad-ranging stakeholders to discuss ideas, broker partnerships, spur investment, and drive renewable energy action.

Ladies and gentleman,

For my part, I am committed to doing all I can to bring Governments, civil society, investors and innovators together, to help drive a universal push to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG7.

To this end, I have organised a series of High-Level SDG Action events on key drivers of sustainable development.

To date, I have convened high-level events on Sustaining Peace, and Climate Action, and I will soon be convening a SDG Financing Lab on 18 April at which Rachel Kyte will moderate the High-Level Panel, an event on Innovation and Connectivity on 17 May, and an event on Education on 28 June.

As I am sure you know The Ocean Conference will be held at the UN from 5-9 June to drive action to support SDG14 and save life in the Ocean.

All of these events seek to catalyse cross-cutting SDG implementation action.

I am therefore encouraging all stakeholders to participate positively in these events. In particular I call on the renewable energy sector to register bold voluntary commitments on The Ocean Conference website.

Ladies and gentleman,

If we are to realise the transformative potential of the 2030 Agenda, and to set humanity firmly on the path towards a sustainable future for all, we must prioritise action on affordable and clean energy both as a goal in itself, and as a driver to help meet all other SDGs.

Therefore your work to help free humanity from high-carbon energy models, and provide universal access to clean and affordable energy sources meets one of the greatest challenges of our time.

I wish you every success in your efforts as you leave this forum to get on with the tasks at hand. It is no exaggeration to say that the welfare of our children, grandchildren and the future generations of humanity depends on the success of these efforts.

I thank you.

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