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Viel Vergnügen! - JJ Bürger -

Ce blog rassemble une séléction de mes textes. L'approche est plurilingue et interdisciplinaire. Les sujets sont internationaux et concernent notamment la durabilité, l'économie, la politique et certains aspects sociaux. Bonne lecture! - JJ Bürger -

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

United Nations - High-Level Political Forum, with a focus on Water and Energy


The 2018 United Nations' High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development is currently taking place in New York City from July 9th to July 18th, including a ministerial meeting from July 16th to the 18th. The theme of this year's HLPF is: "Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies". The full program can be found here.

The High-Level Political Forum is the United Nations' central platform for follow-ups and progress reviews around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It provides a participatory opportunity for all States that are members of the United Nations or of specialized agencies.

View on the flags from inside the United Nations. Photo: EUPlanet

Water and energy (two intertwined topics which EUPlanet covered several times recently, for example here and here) are among the SDGs that are being reviewed in detail in this year's HLPF. Several documents and reports were produced in advance, in order to help structuring the debate on those topics.
For instance, the 2018 progress report on SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) can be found here and futher pieces of information are provided here. A two-page summary is available here.
Regarding SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), an extensive report on policy briefs was provided here. A two-page summary can be found here.

During HLPF, this "Ecological Living Module" at the UN showcases sustainable solutions, incl. for energy and water. Photo: EUPlanet

On July 9th, SDG 6 on water and sanitation was discussed in detail at the United Nations' during a three-hour session.
One important aspect of these discussions was the fact that SDG 6 is a goal that is very deeply connected to other SDGs, because water is a central element to so many aspects of sustainable development. For example, initiatives to fight hunger in developing countries may lead to increased use of water for agriculture and to more water pollution from livestock, as pointed out by Claudia Sadoff, Director of the International Water Management Institute. Thus, Sadoff highlighted, there may be many synergies between SDGs, but there may also be trade-offs. However, various solutions may help to address this issue, such as new irrigation techniques, changes in diet or solar-powered sanitation, she argued. Also, according to Sadoff, modern cities should be capable of absorbing water types from different origins (e.g. storms, floods, recovered waste water) and using them according to the respective water qualities.
Similarly, Lucía Ruiz, Vice Minister of Environment of Peru, emphasized the importance of integrating indigenous and ancestral knowledge of water management into local and national strategies, including water resources shared by several nations, such as the Amazonas.
Following the presentations of the panelists, the discussion with worldwide representatives in the audience helped to further underline additional aspects, such as the importance of long-term funding and capacity building. Other discussed topics included innovative financing solutions (including bottom-up or neighborhood projects as well as micro-finance) and smart usage of data and pathway forecasts.
Indeed, according to Danilo Türk (Chair of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, former President of Slovenia), international funds for water projects (dubbed "Blue Funds" by a Senegalese participant) could contribute to achieving SDG 6 by 2030, in addition to water strategies that empower "each member of the investment community" to participate in local projects.
When asked about interconnections between SDG 6 and other SDGs, Claudia Sadoff mentioned, in addition to her statements on water-related aspects of agriculture and smart cities, that SDG 6 is also deeply linked to SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy). Not only can solar-powered sanitation help to address water pollution, but most renewable energies also require much less water for cooling purposes, compared to thermal and nuclear power plants.

HLPF review session on SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy). Photo: EUPlanet

This was also reiterated during the three-hour session of in-depth review of SDG 7, on Tuesday July 11th. Notably, Adnan Z. Amin (Director-General, the International Renewable Energy Agency IRENA) and Hans Olav Ibrekk (Policy Director, Energy and Climate Change, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) emphasized the link between SDG 6 and SDG 7, as well as the potential benefits of renewable energies.
Many panelists and participants shared an optimistic outlook on the dynamic growth of clean energy solutions, particularly in the field of electricity, where renewables and batteries achieved remarkable cost reductions (and are poised to continue to do so, according to Amin). Furthermore, the share of access to electricity among the world's population has grown from 78% to 87% from 2000 to 2016, while the absolute number of people living without access to electricity is now below 1 billion. In this context, the role of off-grid solutions should also be highlighted: according to Amin, 50% of those who will gain access to electricity between now and 2030 will do so thanks to off-grid solutions such as mini- and microgrids or stand-alone photovoltaics.
However, it was also highlighted that the world is not yet on track to address the issue of safe, clean and affordable energy for cooking. According to the UN's statement, "41 per cent of the world's population (almost 3 billion people) continue to lack access to clean cooking solutions. From 2000 to 2016, 1.4 billion people gained access to clean cooking fuels and technologies. However, these advancements were mostly offset by population growth during this period. Almost 4 million people, mostly women and children, are dying annually due to household air pollution due to inefficient cooking". The urgency of this grave situation was emphasized by a large number of participants and panelists. As Sheila Oparaocha (Executive Director of ENERGIA, Zambia) argued, this issue also requires a thorough analysis of home/kitchen design and food-related processes, as well as a critical reassessment of gender dynamics.
Furthermore, as pointed out by Laurence Tubiana (CEO of the European Climate Foundation), despite positive trends in the energy industry, the "battle is not won yet", as worldwide energy-related carbon emissions increased in 2017 instead of decreasing. Tubiana argued that additional efforts were needed, such as achieving a carbon-free electricity supply on a global scale by 2050, building on current progress in renewables integration and grid management. Similarly, Amin affirmed that about 1 trillion USD of worldwide clean energy investments would be needed every year in order to reach the SDG 7 goal by 2030; those investments would by worthwile, according to Amin, given their vital impact on sustainable development.
Further topics discussed by panelists and participants were carbon-free transportation, bottom-up empowerment and gender aspects of energy strategies, innovative financing solutions, carbon pricing, the role of nuclear energy, carbon emissions from mineral exploration industries, the role of subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels, and clean energy as a motor for power reliability, job creation and economic diversification, especially in developing countries. The importance of Research & Development efforts was also underlined by a participant from South Korea (citing for example Artifical Intelligence and Cloud technologies) and by the host Amin, quoting in particular e-mobility as one of the main fields of research on emerging clean energy technologies.

Testing device for quality assessments of solar cookers. Photo: EUPlanet

Concerning the much-discussed dire need for clean cooking solutions, several NGOs presented their projects during an event on Thursday, July 12th. For instance, Solar Cookers International (SCI) developed the testing device shown above, allowing this NGO to test various solar cooking devices from any manufacturer, in order to ensure industry-wide quality standards and comparability. This testing device is compliant with the ISO standards for performance measurement in cooking devices, which were adopted only a few weeks ago.
In addition, SCI and Solar Cities presented some of their work in Haiti, empowering local communities to embrace biodigesters and solar cookers in order to solve the country's energy shortage and to create opportunities for community engagement and economic development. The Public-Private Alliance Foundation (PPAF), which initiated the event, also presented some of their experiences of working in Haiti, through renewable energy projects such as biodigesters and solar cookers, or through microfinance, handicraft and manufacturing.
A silent auction was also organized, in order to raise funds for new projects in Haiti, allowing participants to buy Haitian items such as paintings, rum, handicraft.

Paintings at the Haitian benefit auction. Photo: EUPlanet
Rum-tasting for the auction, as well as Solar Cities information material. Photo: EUPlanet
Indeed, many more efforts are needed to reach the United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Many of today's technologies and habits will have to evolve, and a lot of investments will be needed. Yet, remarkable coordination efforts are being carried out at the United Nations, and many individuals are committed to implement concrete projects that improve people's lives and empower them to create their own solutions and opportunities.