UN welcomes new partnership on sustainable energy efforts

A political commitment to manage hydrofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol could be one of the biggest climate change wins in the lead-up to the December’s climate conference, says United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

This a huge environmental success that agreed to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.

“Let us ensure that we protect our climate the way we have preserved the ozone layer,” Ban said in his message for the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, observed annually on 16 September.

“Not so long ago, humanity stood on the brink of a self-inflicted catastrophe,” he recalled. “Our use of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had torn a hole in the ozone layer that protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

“But we tackled this challenge,” he reminded citizens of the world.

The scientific confirmation of the depletion of the ozone layer prompted the international community to establish a mechanism for cooperation to take action to protect the ozone layer.

This was formalized in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which was adopted and signed by 28 countries, on 22 March 1985. In September 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was drafted.

“Together, we have succeeded in putting the stratospheric ozone layer on the road to recovery by the middle of this century,” Ban said. “As a result, up to 2 million cases of skin cancer may be prevented each year, along with even more avoided cases of eye cataracts.”

Ahead of next week’s adoption in New York of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the effort by governments to forge a new, collective path forward on climate change later this year in Paris, the UN chief said the Montreal Protocol’s success should serve as inspiration.

Noting that the work of the Montreal Protocol is not yet done, the Secretary-General said hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that have been used as replacements for many ozone-depleting substances are extremely potent greenhouse gases and will contribute a great deal of warming to an already overheated planet in the coming decades “unless we act now.”

“Many countries are now considering using the Montreal Protocol regime to phase down HFCs,” Ban said. “A political commitment to managing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol could be one of the biggest climate change wins in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference.”

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which serves as the Ozone Secretariat, is marking the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Convention.

As part of the commemorative activities, the Ozone Secretariat is conducting the “Precious Ozone” digital campaign to celebrate the many successes achieved under the ozone protection regime over the past 30 years and highlight the importance of the ozone layer in protecting life on Earth from the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Meanwhile, a firm foundation to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all has been built but a solid long-term institutional arrangement is needed, the United Nations Secretary-General said today, as he welcomed the creation of an international not-for-profit organization to spearhead renewable energy efforts.

“Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity and a healthy environment,” Ban Ki-moon told participants at a briefing on the Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All).

Launched by Ban in 2011, SE4All is a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to achieve three inter-linked global targets, namely to ensure universal access to modern energy services, to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030.

In 2015, access to affordable and clean energy became the 7th of 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that world leaders will adopt next week at a special summit at UN Headquarters. These Global Goals are intended to stimulate action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance towards building a more equitable and sustainable world for all.

“I strongly commend the inclusion of Sustainable Development Goal 7 on energy,” Ban continued. “With targets on access, renewables, energy efficiency and means of implementation, this goal is a game-changer – for everything from eradicating poverty to combating climate change. […] But we can, and must, do more.”

The Secretary-General announced that a new Sustainable Energy for All Partnership will now spearhead SE4All, and be led by the current World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, Rachel Kyte.

In addition to becoming the first Chief Executive Officer of the Sustainable Energy for All Partnership, Kyte will also take over as the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All on 1 January 2016.

“If we are successful over the next decade or more in realizing the ambition in SDG 7, we will be successful in realizing the ambitions in many more of the goals, not least of which will be SDG 13 [climate action],” the new CEO stated.

“Sometimes when we talk about energy, we talk about megawatts and kilowatts […]. But this agenda is firmly rooted in the ability of a woman to seek medical care in a hospital, knowing that the lights won’t go out. This is an agenda about being able to turn the irrigation pump on for the small farmer in a desertified part of the developing world. This is about being able to put the light on, do the homework, graduate, and go on and do more, and contribute back,”  Kyte added.

The outgoing Special Representative for SE4All said that if the world wants transformative change, it will need major financing and major deployment of technologies.

“To do that, we will need a new way of working with the private sector, not the philanthropic side of the private sector but in fact, the core investment part of the private sector,” Kandeh Yumkella underlined. “And that is what we’ve developed for you on the Sustainable Energy for All to drive about $120 billion a year into energy sector investments.”

He added that he believes one of Ban’s biggest legacies for the UN is that, under his leadership, he was able to establish an energy agenda for the Organization – something that has been attempted but unrealized for 20 years.

Also speaking at the event, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the international community now has, with this new partnership, a tool to make sure it delivers on Global Goal 7.

“And I feel also supremely confident in the leadership transition from Kandeh’s dynamic strong leadership in the creation of this initiative, driving it forward, to Rachel Kyte now taking over, whom I’ve seen on the barricades of fighting for water and sanitation, climate change, and a number of issues where we have coinciding views.”

Following a competitive and transparent bidding process, the SE4All Executive Committee has chosen Vienna, Austria, to host the new Partnership.