10 July 2018
High-Level Political Forum, 4th, 5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Highlight Importance of Universal Electricity Access, Disaster Resilience to Achieving Sustainable Development, as High-Level Political Forum Continues

Despite significant progress in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the world is not yet on track to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, as set out in Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Political Forum heard today as it continued to review progress made in implementing the Goals.

On the second day of its third annual meeting, the Forum — tasked with evaluating progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — also held two thematic reviews, dealing with the building of resilient societies and advancing science, technology and innovation, with the participation of Governments and civil society.

Heather Page of the Sustainable Development Goals Monitoring Section of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Statistics Division said that, from 2000 to 2016, the proportion of the world’s population with access to electricity increased by almost 10 per cent to 87 per cent.  Southern Asia and sub‑Saharan Africa — the two regions with the largest proportion of people without access to energy — made considerable progress, she said, adding, however, that challenges remain in meeting the deadline for universal access.  Renewable energy power generation is expanding rapidly, but use of modern forms of renewable energy for transportation purposes remains low.

Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency, said the world of energy is witnessing rapid and disruptive change, and the case for renewables has never been stronger.  He added that renewable-powered energy systems are becoming a tangible reality, although clean solutions for cooking needs to be rapidly scaled up.

During the thematic review on resilient societies, Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary‑General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said developing countries are vulnerable to shocks due to their structural weaknesses.  Describing small island developing States as a magnifying glass for resilience, she said countries could learn much from their experiences to strengthen their own capacity to recover from disasters.

In the same vein, David Smith, Caribbean Chair for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network of Jamaica, said resilience should be seen in terms of building back to the point where a country should have been before disaster struck.  Emphasizing that educated people are more resilient to shocks, he said education — alongside more creative funding procedures and better access to science and technology — is key.

During the thematic discussion on science, technology and innovation, panellists focused on policy cohesion and the impact of rapid technological change.  Endah Murniningtyas, co-chair of the group of scientists for the Global Sustainable Development Report, said science could do more to help Member States achieve the Goals.  Increased connectivity could also expand the range of opportunities for people and communities most at risk of being left behind, she added.

The High-Level Political Forum will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 July, to continue its work.

Thematic Review

The Forum held a discussion on “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”, chaired by Council Vice-President Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and moderated by Emily Wilkinson, senior research fellow in the area of risk and resilience at the Overseas Development Institute in the United Kingdom.  Panellists included:  Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary‑General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Dereje Wordofa, Deputy Executive Director (Programme) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Jeb Brugmann, 100 Resilient Cities; and David Smith, Coordinator of the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies and the University Consortium for Small Island States, and the Caribbean Chair for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network of Jamaica.  Lead discussants were Vuk Zugic, Ambassador and Coordinator of the Economic and Environmental Activities, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and Markris de Guzman, Regional Focal Point, Asia DRR Youth Network (major group of children and youth).

Ms. WILKINSON said guiding principles to resilience include knowing risks, limiting future risks and managing disaster as it happens with a view to improving responses.  Risk drivers must be addressed as should the potential consequences.  Underlining the importance of looking at structural barriers and access to climate information, she said addressing these issues is key alongside examining inequalities and financing.

Ms. DURANT, discussing the economic aspect of the issue, said UNCTAD held a session recently dealing with shocks in Jamaica, Sierra Leone and other States.  The conclusion was clear:  developing countries are vulnerable to shocks due to their structural weaknesses.  Recommendations included expanding the economic base to reduce the impact of market shocks.  In addition, economic trade and social policies should focus on workers rather than sectors while social protection mechanisms should be established.  Debt forgiveness or suspension for countries experiencing shocks is another tool that aids recovery, releasing funds to better prepare for possible future shocks.  Innovative technologies are also effective prior to, during and after shocks and for general progress on development.  For instance, remote sensing was used in Zambia to identify areas vulnerable to desertification, leading to tree planting initiatives.  Once 3D printers are widely used, the economy will be turned completely upside down and approaches to resilience will have to adapt.  Pointing at small island developing States as a magnifying glass for resilience, she said they are threatened daily by shocks and countries could learn much from their experiences to strengthen capacity to recover from disasters.

Mr. WORDOFA said that, given the current global landscape, resilient communities and societies are needed now more than ever before.  UNFPA aims at building resilience in three areas:  ending preventable maternal deaths; improving access to family planning; and ending harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation.  Such actions build resilience in many ways, especially in times of conflict, and efforts especially target young people.  Initiatives also focus on addressing gender-based violence and on better understanding population data, which can identify vulnerabilities and provide valuable information for effective programming.  In Africa, almost 60 per cent of the population is under age 35, with young people often seen as causes and drivers of conflict and young women regarded as victims.  However, a recent UNFPA study shows differently, demonstrating that young people participate in conflict prevention and resolution.  If strategic investments are made in education and employment, young people’s potential would be more effectively broadened.  Barriers, such as inequality, exclusion and discrimination against young people, should be addressed, as youth should be seen as agents of change.  Raising a number of grave concerns, he said rape continues to be used as a weapon of war, perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity in many cases and gender-based violence is devastating to survivors and their families.  Addressing these and other issues is essential and UNFPA is working with many States to, among other things, improve the situation and make communities more resilient.

Mr. BRUGMANN discussed the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Programme which helps cities explore what they needed to build resilience.  He pointed to Puerto Rico following the 2017 hurricanes as an example of how complex the concept of resilience could be.  Puerto Rico was already in the midst of a crisis of resilience before it was hit, with multiple stresses — including a high level of poverty, inadequate health care, poor quality water and consistent power outages — making it difficult for the island to respond to unforeseen circumstances.  Drawing lessons from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, the Reimagine Puerto Rico resilience strategy was launched in anticipation of billions of dollars of recovery funds which, nine months on, are still on the way.  Emphasizing the need to think comprehensively about resilience, he said that, in the aftermath of a disaster, “we default to a recovery notion”, with Government and insurers, through their funding procedures, inhibiting the use of recovery dollars to carry out advanced development.  In the United States, he said, the level of funding was only enough to return to pre-disaster conditions, and not enough to address underlying conditions.

Mr. SMITH, speaking from the perspective of small island developing States, said these States and least developed countries in the tropics will feel the impact of climate change much earlier than the rest of the world.  That could have a profound effect on their ability to achieve Goals 2 and 3 regarding food and health.  Because of their small size, and with their economies closely tied to ecosystems and biodiversity, even a Category 3 hurricane could easily cost 100 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of damage and loss.  Recovery could take 5 to 10 years, during which another disaster could well strike.  By and large, he said, educated people — regardless of their economic status — are more resilient to shocks, so building human capital through primary, secondary and especially tertiary education is a good strategy for building resilience.  Resilience should be seen in terms of building back to the point where a country should have been if the event had not taken place.  The alternative means taking one step forward and two steps back.  He went on to emphasize better access to science and technology, as well as more creative funding procedures, so that the next hurricane, earthquake or global economic downtown did not cause such a problem.

Mr. ZUGIC said inequalities must be addressed to attain sustainable and resilient societies.  Citing some successful examples, he said policies and lessons learned should be shared.  In OSCE, efforts are geared towards taking advantage of the benefits of science, technology and innovation, including cybersecurity and digitalization.  Innovation can be a driver for enhanced connectivity to bolster economic prosperity and security.  Partnerships are also important, he said, adding that all 17 Sustainable Development Goals are interlinked.  The current positive momentum should be used to galvanize efforts to build resilience.  Many issues can only be resolved through multilateralism, he said, noting that women and youth are agents of change and their full potential must be used during this transformation process.

Ms. DE GUZMAN said the major group for children and youth is taking many steps to help find solutions.  People-centred policies are key to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Resilience should be addressed across multiple agenda, including development and humanitarian agendas, and human security must be supported in societies to ensure everyone feels empowered.  Investments in youth are critical to ensure that no one is left behind. 

During the discussion, delegates shared experiences and offered suggestions.

The representative of the European Union delegation described its members’ work, which aims at strengthening States’ capacity to restore core functions in a manner that ensures respect for human rights and fosters long-term security and progress.  Some guidelines include tracking and responding to vulnerabilities and addressing resilience on multiple levels.

The representative of the Philippines said the national development plan is people-centred.  As her country is vulnerable to shocks, disaster risk reduction is firmly entrenched in the Government’s policies, which include early warning mapping.  Efforts are also under way to strengthen resilience in cities across the country, addressing shocks and stresses with a view to better preparing for disasters.

Panellists then answered questions, from Indonesia’s representative, about how to harness synergies to boost progress, and from South Africa’s delegate, about how States could draw on the Paris Agreement on climate change and correlate related work on the 2030 Agenda.

Ms. DURANT said working on resilience before shocks is beneficial on many levels.  A platform must be prepared and exist before a disaster and could be tasked with working on economic prevention, education and health.  On economic diversification, she said all countries are threatened in one way or another and should focus on better preparing for shocks.  For instance, terrorist attacks in Tunisia had devastated the economy, which is centred on tourism.  This situation has given the country an opportunity to reassess and diversify.  Noting that financing for the Paris Agreement is still being discussed, she called for effective mechanisms in this regard.

Mr. WORDOFA and Mr. BRUGGMAN described how their organizations are working with countries to build resilience societies.

Mr. SMITH said experience gained by island States is valuable and should be shared.  At the local level, work is under way, for instance, with Cuba, on addressing concerns related to floods, droughts and tropical cyclones.

The representative of Chile, asking panellists for advice for effective action, said her country faces earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.  While no national plan is in place, Chile is trying to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 at a time when disaster risks have multiplied alongside social risks, including unemployment.

The representative of Kenya, providing a snapshot of disaster risk reduction strategies, said efforts include establishing relevant institutions, strengthening contingency planning and building a web-based response system.

The representative of Mercy Corps, a non-governmental organization for persons with disabilities, echoing a common concern about major groups, said that, to achieve inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies, full participation of all persons, including those with disabilities, must be ensured.

The representative of Mauritania said drought threatens her country, on average every three years, and funding is being sought to better prepare.  There is also a need to establish a rapid response strategy and to create a fund for such activities, she said, wondering if others have any suggestions in this regard.

The representative of Honduras said 70 per cent of disasters hitting Central America are due to the weather, the worst consequences of which are suffered by rural families in the drought corridor on the Pacific side of her country.  It is important to explore the costs of action versus inaction, she said, advocating for integrated efforts to increase resilience.

The representative of the United Nations University said flood occurrence has increased in countries of all income categories compared to the 1990s, sometimes as much as four times higher.  Serious floods hit in the University’s host nation, Japan, with nearly 100 people missing.  He said he is “geographically sure” that the frequency of heavy rainfall will increase.  However, the speed of climate change is beyond the human ability to adapt, even to the present climate variability.

The representative of Iran underscored the importance of the United Nations’ commitment to support Member States, especially developing countries, to achieve their national action plans.

Panellists then answered a range of questions.

Ms. DURANT said it was clear that strengthening resilience and preventing disasters must involve economic diversity, decentralization, cooperation, including with local communities, especially indigenous peoples.  She advocated debt suspension, with possible conditionality, so that resources can be allocated for a multidimensional approach.  Indeed, economic instruments must be developed to help countries recover after shocks.

Mr. WORDOFA said people must be at the centre of any approach to resilience, especially women and indigenous peoples.  Local and national ownership is important, as is political commitment coupled with social norms, laws and investments.

Mr. BRUGMANN said that Santiago de Chile designed a process, not as a Government process, but rather, a multi-stakeholder agenda similar to the Local Agenda 21 achieved almost two decades ago.

Mr. SMITH, regarding whether community-based financing mechanisms could work, said a project in the Caribbean had found that formal mechanisms are indeed resilient.  Small businesses were trained to get back into business as soon as possible.  To the point about military-related technology, he said there is the idea that using less money for the military would free up resources for other things.  Some technology could be used to design flood prevention measures, for example, and it would be useful to share whatever data that can be shared.  To move forward, Governments that have champions and can motivate their ministers to “work outside of the boundaries” certainly work better.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Switzerland and Mali.  Representatives of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the major groups for non-governmental organizations, children and youth, and indigenous peoples also participated.

The High-level Political Forum then held a discussion on “advancing science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals”, chaired by Ms. King and moderated by Norma Munguía Aldaraca, Director General for Global Issues at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Mexico.  Panellists included:  Endah Murniningtyas, co-chair of the group of scientists for the Global Sustainable Development Report, from Indonesia; Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director General and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Professor Emeritus at the Vienna University of Technology; and Carsten Fink, Chief Economist, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Ernest Foli, Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, was the lead discussant.

Ms. KING, opening the discussion, welcomed the panellists, encouraged a fruitful exchange and invited Toshiya Hoshino (Japan) and Juan Sandoval Mendiolea (Mexico), co-chairs for the third annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. HOSHINO, providing a synopsis of the Multi-stakeholder Forum’s meeting in June, highlighted sessions he chaired on sustainable consumption and production, terrestrial ecosystems, road maps for future action and on indigenous knowledge.  For the first time, the Multi-stakeholder Forum promoted networking and matchmaking between investors, innovators and other partners through a special event, as well as featured an exhibition hub for winners of a global call for innovations.  Science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals is not yet a familiar concept, he said, urging all stakeholders to recognize this issue as a personal one, with education and capacity-building being essential.

Mr. SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA said the Multi-stakeholder Forum addressed global trends and cross-cutting issues, including the impact of rapid technological change in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Having chaired a session on such changes, he said conclusions recognized that better knowledge of such impact is needed in developing and developed countries.  Summarizing other sessions on water and sanitation, energy, sustainable cities and how to support the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, he said the Multi-stakeholder Forum concluded that joint action needs to be brought together from the United Nations, Governments, development institutions, funding agencies, science academies, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders.

Ms. MUNGUÍA ALDARACA said the High-level Political Forum is ideal for starting a discussion on drafting public policies to improve coordination between Governments, civil society and the private sector with a view to forging a real partnership for progress.

Ms. MURNININGTYAS said science played a key role in fostering and informing development efforts.  Providing an overview of ongoing work on the Global Sustainable Development Report, slated to be published in 2019, she said discussions with scientists, Member States and stakeholders would serve as a guide for future action.  At least four main issues will be explored, particularly the review’s theme.  Achieving the Goals depended on the central role of science.  Gaps between science and policy-making must also be addressed, including by enhanced communications between partners and better collaboration with educational institutes, the private sector and civil society.  Science could do more, however, to help Member States achieve the Goals through, among other things, using traditional, indigenous knowledge, she said, also extolling the benefits of new technologies.  Scientists can also help to identify existing technology to inform policy-making.  Addressing how science could help to improve the lives of those farthest behind, she said increasing connectivity is a tool that would increase a range of opportunities.  In Indonesia, big data is already providing valuable information for policy-making and planning coordination.

Mr. NAKICENOVIC, presenting a slide show, underlined the importance of policy coherence and emphasized the paradox of science, technology and innovation, which leaves many behind and has negative consequences such as climate change, but is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  It is essential to understand inter-relationships, interdependencies and trade-offs and to leverage synergies among related policies and the Goals at all levels — global, national, regional and local.  Tools supporting policy coherence include integrated assessments, road maps from local to global and effective systems and holistic approaches.  Science, technology and innovation creates transformational change.  Referring to key messages from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis The World in 2050 report, he said results examine current trends and dynamics that promote and jeopardize the achievement of the Goals and identify future challenges and sustainable development pathways.  The report identifies six major transformations:  human capacity and demography, consumption and production, decarbonization and energy, food, biosphere and water, smart cities and digital revolution.  However, he cautioned that such transformational change could be incremental and disruptive and radical changes and efforts must focus on ways to ensure progress.

Mr. FINK, noting that WIPO promotes a balance intellectual property system stimulating creativity and innovation, said the achievement of many Goals depends on innovative technologies.  Turning to the Global Innovation Index 2018, he said the report measures innovation performance across 126 economies based on 80 indicators, going beyond narrow metrics of measuring innovation and was designed as a tool for action for decision-makers.  A complementary ranking focuses on cities and regions to try to determine innovation hotspots around the world.  Noting that the report’s theme for 2018 focuses on energy and that it is available at the WIPO website, he presented a slide show of top innovation performers, regional rankings and top science and technology clusters.  Energy is a field experiencing dramatic technological progress, including solar technology and the use of renewable energy, and has the potential to increase efficiency at a time when demands are rising.  He emphasized that public policy plays an important role in promoting innovation, through a range of ways, from funding to regulation.

Mr. FOLI, making a presentation as a lead discussant, summarized the outcome of the African consultation workshop on the Global Sustainable Development Report.  As one of the 15 scientists tasked with drafting the report, he said a procedure has been established to strengthen cooperation among local experts and other stakeholders.  The African regional workshop included stakeholders from civil society, the private sector and Governments and resulted in several key messages.  Among them was building stronger institutions and mobilizing ownership of efforts and innovation, with the latter capitalizing on indigenous knowledge.  By doing so, efforts related to health, agriculture and other sectors can be adapted to African needs.  Africa also needs growing investments in health, education and infrastructure, with Governments committing the necessary funds to boost progress.  Pointing to other challenges such as unemployment and limited opportunities for youth, he emphasized that the private sector and other partners have the ability to create jobs.

When the floor opened for an interactive discussion, participants raised concerns, suggested ways forward and shared experiences on how technology is helping their own development efforts.

The representative of Kenya provided examples of national action involving information and communications technology, including in the health sector and in census reporting.

The representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said nuclear energy is quietly providing energy to millions around the world.  Nuclear techniques and technologies are also contributing to health, agriculture and other development sectors.

The representative of the major group for women said current drives for technology must address the environmental impact, including “clean” coal and nuclear energy.  The United Nations, Governments and other partners must consider traditional and indigenous knowledge and contributions from women and other groups in decision-making to ensure science, technology and innovation is responsive to ensure no one is left behind.

The representative of the Russian Federation said innovations are now being linked to the creation of new nature-based technologies to enhance efforts aimed at achieving the Goals.  A new step forward must be created to harness advances and foster cooperation in various science fields, he said, announcing a related conference to be held in Sochi in the coming months.

The representative of the Islamic Development Bank said leap-frogging is the only way many countries can make the jump towards using new technological solutions to challenges they face.  To promote this, the Bank has earmarked funding and established a programme to foster innovative solutions.

The representative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), highlighting the extraordinary power technology has to boost efforts to achieve the Goals, wondered how to best channel that potential.

Mr. NAKICENOVIC, answering a question about how progress could be made in urban areas, said information and communications technology, as well as science and innovation are key to development gains for both rural and small and medium‑sized cities.  Such advances must also ensure gender equality in all aspects.

Mr. FINK, agreeing, said women do not contribute as much as they could or should, according to statistics.  Reasons for this deficit are manifold and are truly a loss to the world.  Efforts must be made to encourage women to join the science field and their stronger participation in science and innovation holds a lot of promise.

Ms. MURNININGTYAS said science and technology must transform from labs to the field.  Bottom‑up technology is also needed, with efforts fostering the generation of ideas and innovation at the local level.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of South Africa, Indonesia, Norway, Benin, Belgium, Finland and Turkey, as well as the European Union.  A representative of the major group for children and youth also participated.

Review of Sustainable Development Goal Implementation

In the afternoon, the Forum held a discussion on “Goal 7 — Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, chaired by Council President Marie Chatardová (Czechia) and moderated by Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency.  It also featured a presentation by Heather Page, Sustainable Development Goals Monitoring Section, Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Panellists included:  Siri Jirapongphan, Minister for Energy of Thailand; Laurence Tubiana, Chief Executive Officer of the European Climate Foundation; Sheila Oparaocha, Executive Director of ENERGIA, Zambia; Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director of Energy and Extractive Industries Global Practice of the World Bank Group.

The lead discussants were Hans Olav Ibrekk, Policy Director of Energy and Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway; Mengrong Cheng, President of the United States Representative Office of State Grid Corporation of China, and United States Representative ad interim of Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization; and Joan Carling, TEBTEBBA (indigenous peoples major group).

Ms. PAIGE said that, from 2000 to 2016, the proportion of the world’s population with access to electricity increased by almost 10 per cent to 87 per cent.  Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are the two regions with the largest proportion of people without access to energy, although both regions have made considerable progress.  The world is not yet on track to reach universal access by 2030.  Approximately 41 per cent of the world’s population still does not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, she said, highlighting that some 4 million deaths are caused annually by indoor air pollution due to inefficient cooking methods.  Renewable energy power generation is expanding rapidly, although the use of modern forms of renewable energy for transportation purposes remains relatively law.

Mr. AMIN said that, with the adoption of Goal 7, for the first time, the world has in place a global goal on energy, placing energy at the core of the sustainable development agenda.  The adoption of Goal 7 was ground-breaking, representing a complete transformation of the global energy system.  The world of energy is witnessing rapid and disruptive change, he said, stressing that the case for renewables has never been stronger.  Noting that Governments have contributed significantly towards the deployment of renewables, he drew attention to energy systems powered by renewables, which are increasingly becoming a tangible reality.  Clean cooking solutions need to be rapidly scaled up, particularly given the negative health impacts of inefficient cooking methods.

Mr. JIRAPONGPHAN said that making modern energy services accessible and affordable for all has been the key principle of sustainable and equitable societies in Thailand.  To make universal electricity possible, the State invested in extending electrical supply lines to every household in every community, allowing for energy services to be provided at the same price throughout the country.  A similar approach to make natural gas available and affordable to all parts of the country has been pursued since 1984, he highlighted.  Taking a longer‑term view on infrastructure investment and averaging out the cost of distribution throughout the country has made universal access to modern, reliable and affordable energy possible and sustainable in Thailand.  “We are moving forward,” he said.

Ms. TUBIANA said that Goal 7 is a big part of the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Energy issues must be made more concrete and accessible for average citizens.  The larger objectives laid out in the Paris Agreement speak very little to people, but when taking into account the role of energy in people’s everyday lives, things become much more concrete.  The battle is not totally won, she said, stressing the importance of ensuring that Goal 7 and the Paris Agreement are mutually supported goals.  The power sector must be totally decarbonized by 2050, she said, highlighting the recent progress in this sector in Chile.  Countries that were traditionally massive energy consumers, such as China and India, are betting on renewables.  It is heartening that, in 2017, 17 countries generated more than 90 per cent of their electricity with renewable sources.  Countries and the business sector must commit to going 100 per cent renewable, she stressed, underscoring that many countries view the move towards renewables as a source of greater security, independence and sovereignty.

Ms. OPARAOCHA said the business case for linking Goal 7 with Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment is well known.  But, with 12 years left for achieving these targets, “we really are not performing that well”.  She called for taking a broader view on cooking energy to include cleaner fuels, better stoves and kitchen design.  Greater use of mechanical energy would go far to address the energy needs of rural women, she said, adding that more can be done to create opportunities for women in the energy industry.  Clean energy must be a top political priority, she said, alongside greater investment and integrating gender into energy policies and strategies.  Including women in energy transition is not only good for the Goals, but also good for business and for the principle of leaving no one behind, she added.

Mr. PULITI said the business case for renewables is constantly growing.  But, to attract and retain private sector participation, risk-mitigating financial instruments are not as important as a predictable and transparent regulatory framework.  Equally important is the creation of markets to create the mass required to bring down production costs.  Long-term funding from international and bilateral financial institutions should meanwhile be structured to attract private sector funding.

Mr. IBREKK, as lead discussant, said conversations centred on the notion that to deliver on promises, urgent action is needed.  Building on the presentations, he highlighted three recommendations the working group has made.  Clean cooking solutions are a top priority and investments must be scaled up in energy efficiency across all sectors.  Finally, financing must be double for Goal 7.  To implement the 2030 Agenda, all stakeholders need to step up.  This includes forming partnerships and translating the 2030 Agenda into specific strategic, bold and time-bound plans of action.

Ms. CHENG, describing a clean energy initiative in a province in China, said success centred on building energy interconnection.  Global energy interconnection focused on using clean energy on a large scale, with clean energy bases connected and transformed into electricity.  Providing an overview of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization, she said a 2017 high‑level seminar, held with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at United Nations Headquarters, released the Global Energy Interconnection Action Plan to Promote the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the notion of interconnection is gaining traction.  International cooperation has led to partnerships worldwide and China is now providing energy to neighbouring countries while working on grid projects to provide electricity to a growing number of areas.

Ms. CARLING said she is encouraged by the report on expanding renewable energy use, noting that indigenous peoples are committed to achieving Goal 7.  But, she wondered if efforts are reaching those farthest behind.  For instance, the construction of large hydro projects, wind farms and other initiatives often displaced communities.  In designing renewable energy, it is essential to communicate with communities, she said, adding that lessons show that, without community-level participation, a project is likely to fail.  In addition, capacity-building is needed for States and the private sector to better understand local conditions to better design projects.  Such efforts will require mechanisms that engage communities, the private sector and States.  A bottom-up approach is needed to ensure the inclusion of those farthest behind and that related actions are committed human rights protection, social justice and accountability.  Turning to the cooking issue in terms of renewable energy, she said gender must be taken into account when dealing with the issue.

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of least developed countries, said that, without progress on Goal 7, it will be hard to achieve the other Goals.  With access to electricity as low as 44 per cent in some cases, least developed countries have a long way to go, despite considerable progress already made.  He underscored the wide disparity in access to electricity between rural and urban.  Up to $40 billion in investments per year are needed.  However, investment in least developed countries is insufficient, he said, calling for increased official development assistance (ODA) and strong multi-stakeholder partnerships to address that challenge.

The representative of Israel reviewed the steps under way in his country, including a growing number of solar installations and greater wind energy production.  Israel is aiming to reduce its fuel imports by 2025, while the Ministry of Energy has announced that gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles will be banned in Israel from 2030.  By 2025, most trucks and buses will run on locally produced liquefied natural gas, he said, adding that many Israel start-ups are engaged with major automakers to find solutions for a cleaner and less polluted world.

The youth delegate for sustainable development of the Netherlands said that during a 300-kilometre bicycle tour of her country, young people told her that the transition to clean energy must be both fast and fair.  Costs should be spread so that everyone can afford clean energy.  Young people want clean energy as soon as possible and they expect Governments to take the lead in this regard.  The only thing that should be left behind by 2030 is fossil fuels, she added.

The representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said insufficient progress is being made on the energy front.  The financial sector is increasingly comfortable with supporting projects, but the challenge now is how to step up the pace of change.  He added that the use of inefficient and outdated equipment made it harder to expand electricity access and supply.

The representative of Saudi Arabia provided several examples of ongoing efforts, including infrastructure investments in the electricity sector, which now reaches 99 per cent of the population.  Energy security is being promoted through international partnerships.  Saudi Arabia has also been developing renewable energy projects, including solar and wind power, to provide affordable services to consumers.

The representative of Togo said 38 per cent of his country’s population now has access to electricity, a proportion that should grow significantly in the coming years under a national strategy published this month.  Achieving results will depend on the private sector and new technology, including the deployment of solar energy in rural areas.  He went on to ask about innovative funding alternatives, as well as ways through which countries that consumer technology could become countries that produced technology.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said his country has been described as an energy utopia, with the potential for producing 42,000 megawatts of electricity, particularly hydroelectricity.  However, it faces enormous challenges, with only 19 per cent of its population of 79 million having access to electricity, he said, adding that legislation was recently adopted to address that issue.  He also noted that his country produced 67 per cent of the world’s cobalt, essential for electric vehicles, but benefited little from its added value.

The representative of the women’s major group drew attention to the danger of indoor pollution, which claims lives, particularly among women in Africa.  She called for women’s leadership in sustainable energy production, adding that more and faster action is needed now.  She also called for the promotion of energy democracy and a move away from top-down market approaches, with communities — including women — having control over their energy systems.

Mr. SIRI discussed the impact of pricing regimes, as well as grid parity, which could be achieved by combining technological innovations, such as installing solar panels on hydroelectric plants.  He also cited Thailand’s move to create a new biodiesel fuel to power the nation’s buses and trucks.

Ms. TUBIANA said more could be done by being more imaginative.  Technology and investment are great, she added, but the social dimension of energy access must be understood, as well.

Ms. OPARAOCHA said she was struck by the progress being made, adding, however, that the clock is ticking and that the objective of sustainable energy for all might be missed if those furthest away from energy transition are not reached.

Mr. PULITI said integration made better choices possible.  Energy is about human development and human development is about energy, he added, emphasizing the need for a multifaceted approach.

Also speaking were the representatives of Kenya, Algeria, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Guatemala, Denmark, Senegal, Austria, Indonesia, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Cameroon and Jamaica, as well as the European Union, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), UNCTAD, and the major groups for children and youth, and for workers and trade unions.

For information media. Not an official record.