The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
Statement at the UNGA 78 Framing Session on International Finance and Energy Transition Diplomacy
Statement by Jorge Moreira da Silva, UNOPS Executive Director, to the UNGA 78 Framing Session on International Finance and Energy Transition Diplomacy - New York, 18 September 2023
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Prime Minister Jacobs, Ambassador Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, Excellencies, Ambassadors and government officials, UN colleagues, all protocol observed,
I wish to congratulate Antigua and Barbuda and the Small Island Developing States for organizing this debate and for bringing to the table additional partners, all very much needed to steer the energy transition into the right direction at a time we need it the most.
The summer that is about to end has been the hottest in history. Devastating climate impacts continue to disrupt livelihoods and economies and destroy our natural capitals at an unprecedented speed. Additional geologic events claimed lives and produced significant destruction and loss. We are navigating through stormy waters with no shores in sight.
Yet, our progress in safeguarding lives and natural assets is slow. According to the IRENA 2023 Renewable Energy Statistics, the estimated use of energy from renewable sources in 2023 is estimated at 21.5%, sector data showing a share of renewables in the total energy used standing at 30.4% for electricity production, 12.2% for heating and only 6.1% to transport. At this pace, we won’t reach Net Zero on time to avoid a climate catastrophe.
Among the driving factors of the slow progress, countries include limited financing, technology, and institutional capacity to drive the transition, all of them being in our hands to address together.
The financing picture as presented by the International Energy Agency shows an estimated USD 2.8 Trillion spending globally on energy in 2023 with clean technologies representing close to 60% of the total. Yet, the actual new investment in renewable energy – the investment in the transition itself stands at some 200 billion over the last year with 20% being sourced through debt and some 65% through private equity. The International Energy Agency estimates that the annual investment in the energy transition in developing countries and emerging economies should increase sevenfold to between USD 1.4-1.9 trillion while,according to the IEA, the average cost of reaching next zero by 2050 stands at over 4 trillion per year.
Obviously, more is needed and is needed fast, but money and technology need to be powered by political will and unity and continuity in action. Until we transition everywhere, we cannot reach our net-zero by 2050 goal for which, according to IEA, close to 70% of primary energy used must come from renewable sources.
A large part of the energy transition that the world needs is resilient infrastructure which is a core component of UNOPS’ portfolio along with national planning and design of the energy system as well as costing and identification of potential sources of financing. We do offer integrated solutions as we implement large scale investments commissioned by our partners.
We should also not forget that the transition should happen while we also make sure that all people have access to electricity. In 2022, IEA reported a decline in the number of people capable of securing access to electricity as a result of the multiple crises that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine.
Three weeks ago, UNOPS hosted a dialogue on Infrastructure for Energy: Pathways towards a just, green and resilient transition in which I proposed a three-tier approach: Transformation, Acceleration and Inclusive Action which defines the actual theory of change of the energy transition: we must transform the way we produce and consume, accelerate pace of embracing the transformation and ensure that, while we transform and advance the energy transition, we leave no one behind. This approach ensures that planning, financing and actual implementation remain a continuum until the job is done.
I gave examples of our transformative work in Gaza in the transition to renewable energy for uninterrupted access, the Southeast Asia Energy Transition Partnership (ETP) supports Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines that UNOPS implements, the Sierra Leone Rural Renewable Energy Project that secured private financing as well to accelerate progress, the work we do to help provide solar energy to schools in Pakistan and the Mobile Boiler Houses in Ukraine to support quality education and assist vulnerable communities respectively. While these projects address immediate needs and help steer action in the right direction, they are not enough to take us to net-zero. We need solidarity and commitment at the global level and we need them now.
During the recent consultations on the next 10-year agenda, which UNOPS assists closely, SIDS expressed clearly their focus on a rapid energy transition to transform their economies, protect their fragile environment and improve human security. I am pleased to acknowledge that SIDS are now supported by so many partners to make the transition a reality.
Count on UNOPS to be on the SIDS side as some major decisions are ahead of us including on the reform of the international financial architecture, the adoption of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index and the capitalization of development financing through the SDG Stimulus. But let me remind everyone that having the financial means does not guarantee a successful transition. Capacity to act on time and evidence-based investment decisions are equally if not more important.
While we strengthen our capacity to assist within the broader UN family, I do know that building consensus and harnessing political will cannot be done without everyone’s engagement including the advocacy communities and the civil society.
And, yes, we do need a Roadmap by COP28 that can guide SIDS and other developing countries in framing their position in Dubai in December 2023.
At UNOPS, we aim to ensure we remain your partner of choice in building resilient infrastructures including for the energy transition, and we get the job done while meeting the 1.50 Celsius maximum increase in temperature is still possible.
Thank you and best wishes for your deliberations.