9 February 2021

Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Sustainable Energy Youth Event, Declares It Unacceptable that Governments Continue to Build Polluting Economies

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message for the Sustainable Energy for All Youth Summit, held today:

Hello, everyone.  I am pleased to join this first ever Sustainable Energy for All Youth Summit.  Let me commend “SEforALL” for recognizing the need to spearhead a call-to-action campaign in this critical year for climate.

A key priority of the United Nations this year is to build a global coalition for carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.  Young people will have a critical role to play.  We have all been inspired by the transformational leadership of youth — coming together in solidarity and compassion to demand intergenerational justice and bold action on the climate emergency.

The Sustainable Development Goals — our blueprint for development — have a 2030 deadline.  Current data shows that we are not on track to achieve SDG7 [Sustainable Development Goal 7], which calls for affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

To meet the climate challenge, we know that we need urgently to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  We also know that we need to support developing countries in this transition.  Some 789 million people worldwide still lack access to electricity and 2.8 billion people lack access to clean cooking solutions, putting millions of children at risk of hunger and disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights all too well why it is essential we deliver on SDG7.  In 11 sub-Saharan countries alone, approximately one quarter of health facilities lack access to electricity increasing the risks of maternal and child mortality.  A new SEforALL report that tracks finance for electricity and clean cooking shows that most Governments continue to build a polluting economy.

This is unacceptable.  Even more so because we have the tools to fix it.  Let’s take, for example, minigrids and off-grid renewable energy systems:  they attracted less than 1.5 per cent of total finance for all electricity.

Young people understand the links between sustainable development and climate justice.  You have risen to the forefront as advocates and innovators in bringing sustainable energy solutions to homes, communities and countries.  As we now seek to recover from the impact of the pandemic, it is important that we recover better with sustainable energy for all.

This will be a critical year for SDG7.  For the first time, the high-level dialogue at the UN General Assembly in September will focus on energy.  The United Nations Climate Change Conference — COP26 — which will take place in Glasgow in November, will provide another major political pressure point to act on a just transition.

I encourage you to actively shape these milestone events in 2021 to help us reach the future we want.  This future starts here and now — here with this Youth Summit and now, in this Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.