The UN has published the 2020 edition of the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report. It draws attention to economic risks in 2020 posed by trade disputes, policy uncertainties, and political polarization. This political and economic climate, combined with rising global temperatures and more weather-related shocks, points to a clear need for “a dramatic shift in the global energy mix.”

The WESP report is produced annually by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five UN regional commissions.

The authors of the 2020 report stress that a cleaner energy mix will mean benefits for human health and the environment. The transition can also bring economic opportunities, but careful policy strategies are needed to ensure an even distribution of the costs and benefits between and within countries.

The energy sector currently emits three quarters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) globally, which means that the world’s growing energy needs must be met with renewable or low-carbon energy sources in order to combat climate change. In other words, expanding investment in oil, gas and coal-fired power is “short-sighted” and presents the risk of sudden losses, as well as environmental setbacks and increased global warming.

The authors also note that weak global growth makes it harder to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. Launching the report, UN Chief Economist Elliott Harris called for policymakers to look beyond promoting GDP growth to investment in projects for education, renewable energy, and resilient infrastructure. [UN Press Release] [UN News Story] [Publication: World Economic and Social Prospects 2020]