The High-level Dialogue on Energy will be convened by the UN Secretary-General under the auspices of the UN General Assembly.
Technical Working Groups have been established on five themes: energy access; energy transitions; enabling the SDGs; innovation, technology and data; and finance and investments.
In the first TWG session, many speakers emphasized the need to reflect the urgency for achieving an energy transition.
UN entities and energy experts have launched substantive preparations for a summit-level meeting on energy in September 2021. Five thematic working groups are meeting virtually to identify roadmaps to achieving SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. The High-level Dialogue on Energy will be convened by the UN Secretary-General under the auspices of the UN General Assembly.
The Dialogue will be the first global meeting on energy under UNGA auspices since 1981. Its expected outcomes include a global roadmap with concrete plans of action for achieving SDG 7 and net-zero emissions, and energy compacts of voluntary commitments and actions.
Technical Working Groups have been established on five themes: energy access; energy transitions; enabling the SDGs; innovation, technology and data; and finance and investments. Each TWG is holding a series of meetings that will result in input to ministerial preparatory meetings beginning in mid-2021. In addition, UN Member States will act as global champions for advocacy and mobilizing concrete actions for the energy compacts.
The first meeting of the TWG on Energy Transition took place on 22 February 2021. This TWG is co-led by three UN bodies: the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). TWG members, Global Champions, and UN-Energy member organizations suggested focus areas and priorities for the TWG’s eventual recommendations.
Many speakers emphasized the need to reflect the urgency for achieving an energy transition. Speakers also stressed:
- A just transition should incorporate social and economic considerations, with the principles of equity and leave no one behind as guides for the phase-out of fossil fuels and transition to new energy sources;
- Africa’s Agenda 2063 can provide a guiding document alongside the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement;
- The need for clean cooking options in Africa;
- The need to modernize the energy grid and establish strong regional power markets, as exemplified by the current failures in the US state of Texas;
- As part of integrating renewable energy resources into electricity infrastructure, there are opportunities for co-ownership of municipal electricity systems to allow citizens to invest in their own electricity infrastructure;
- The energy transition can be seen as more than just a matter of private sector investment, through a focus on ownership and not just job creation;
- The need for information sharing and public awareness campaigns in both developed and developing countries, with one participant noting that renewable technologies are perceived to be more technologically challenging, which impedes their adoption; and
- The value of clear targets, including interim targets on the road to 2030 and 2050.
Also in preparation for the energy summit, on 22 January 2021, the UNGA President convened a session of his informal Morning Dialogues. He encouraged governments to increase ambitions in the run-up to both the High-level Dialogue on Energy and the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 26). According to a summary of the discussion from the UNGA President’s office, key points included:
- Transitioning to sustainable energy will give countries numerous economic competitive advantages (every dollar spent on sustainable energy provides 93 cents of return for GDP above business as usual);
- Many communities still rely on fossil fuels and need national strategies to retrain workers in those sectors, thus the COP26 energy transition campaign is important;
- Energy Compacts generated through the High-level Dialogue should provide a platform to support action by all stakeholders, especially energy companies, and a meaningful follow-up mechanism;
- The High-level Dialogue should ensure synergies with other upcoming global conferences and summits including those on biodiversity, food systems, transport, water, and climate;
- The outcomes of the High-level Dialogue should support and compliment COP26, in particular the Nationally Determined Contributions review process and expressions of greater ambition on energy and climate change;
- As 789 million people lack access to electricity, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, the High-level Dialogue should include a dedicated segment on Africa; and
- Energy services are key to preventing disease and fighting pandemics, and the upcoming UNGA High-Level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity on 27 April 2021 will address this interlinkage.
The next meeting of the TWG on energy transition will take place on 12 April. The other TWGs are also holding their first meetings in late February and early March. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) serves as the Secretariat of the High-level Dialogue. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of TWG meetings] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on High-level Dialogue] [Overview of preparatory process for High-level Dialogue] [Global Champions webpage]