High-Level luncheon on the occasion of the Launch of the Water Action Decade
– As prepared for delivery –
Statement delivered by Chef de Cabinet František Ružička on behalf of H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at High-Level luncheon hosted by the President of the General Assembly and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs on the occasion of the Launch of the Water Action Decade
Excellencies, distinguished delegates ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you all for being here. I want to also thank the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs – and, in particular, Under-Secretary-General Zhenmin – for co-hosting this event today.
This is a fitting venue for a lunch on water and energy. Not only does it allow us all to refuel, and replenish our energy reserves – but it does so with some of the best water views the United Nations has to offer!
It also comes on the heels of today’s launch of the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development.
And so, I hope our discussions will be all the more interesting for it.
Before we get started, I want to make three main points.
First, I want to focus on the relationship between water and energy.
It is one of interdependence.
Water needs energy, and energy needs water. If we want to produce any form of energy, water will be used in some stage of the process. And if we want to ensure access to safe water and sanitation, we will need energy to make that happen.
Another commonality between these two resources is our use of them. Which, in one word, is unsustainable. We have grown our economies, and accelerated our consumption, at the expense of our water supplies. And, at the same time, we have used up a lot of our world’s finite energy resources.
And, it looks like these trends will accelerate – both the interdependence between water and energy, and our rampant use of them.
According to the International Energy Agency, by 2040, the amount of water consumed by the energy sector will increase by almost 60%. Also by 2040, the amount of energy used in the water sector is projected to more than double. This will be fuelled by population growth, and rising demands for food, water and energy.
But, we do not have to wait until 2040 to see the risks involved. Lack of progress in transitioning to clean energy is degrading our already-damaged environment. Millions of people are dying, every year, from the pollution caused by our energy use. And, water is, simply, running out. As we have heard today, Cape Town may be the first major city to deal with this reality – but none can escape it.
And so, we are here to talk about the relationship between water and energy. The nexus. The linkages. The synergies. But, among all these terms and jargon, we cannot lose sight of people.
Which is why, as my second point, I want to focus on people. Because they should be at the centre of any discussion we have on energy and water.
Water-related challenges are a major cause of human suffering. Poor sanitation leads to the deaths of nearly a thousand children, under the age of five, every day. And millions of women continue to walk long, and often dangerous, journeys on a daily basis to collect water.
At the same time, over 1 billion people still live without electricity. And more than 3 billion people are still cooking without clean fuels, which leads to illness and death.
Most of us, in this room, do not experience these challenges personally. At this lunch, we can drink as many glasses of safe, clean water as we want. And we can take for granted that our homes and hotel rooms will have both light, heat and running water, when we return this evening.
But that does not mean that we are exempt from taking action – on behalf of those not in this room today. Instead we need to think outside of this room – and outside of the box. And this is my third and final point today.
We must do more to address the nexus between water and energy. Innovation and creativity will allow us to do so.
We are already seeing this happen.
We are seeing organic waste being used to produce renewable energy.
We are seeing technology that can turn wastewater treatment plants into generators of heat or electricity
We are seeing solar-powered pumps allowing farmers to, both, increase their yields, and sell their excess power back to the grid.
These best practices need to be scaled up – all around the world.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
This summer, we will review both SDG 6, on water, and SDG 7, on energy, during the High-Level Political Forum.
However, this does not mean that we should wait, until then, to tackle these issues.
Let us start today.