The launch of the UN-Energy Plan of Action towards 2025, which seeks to realize the global roadmap to accelerate action on SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), followed up on the September 2021 High-level Dialogue on Energy (HLDE). The Global Energy Compact Network was launched at the same time, to support governments and stakeholders in achieving their voluntary commitments on energy. This policy brief ties together the discussions during the HLDE in September 2021 and those during last week’s launch event to help SDG Knowledge Hub readers understand this shift from goal setting to implementation.

The energy action plan and network were launched during a half-day event titled, ‘Transforming Commitments into Action: Delivering on the Outcomes of the High-level Dialogue on Energy,’ which convened virtually on 4 May 2022.

From Charting a Roadmap to “Walking the Talk” on Energy Action

The 24 September 2021 HLDE was the first UN General Assembly (UNGA) summit-level event on energy in 40 years. It closed with the presentation of 137 voluntary commitments to action, known as “Energy Compacts,” which totaled around USD 400 billion in pledges. This amount was “just the beginning,” said HLDE Co-Chair Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) back in September. The May 2022 event revealed that many more Compacts have been launched since the September summit.

Today, there are over 200 Energy Compacts with more than USD 600 billion in funding and investment. Moreover, as Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), UN-Energy Co-Chair, and Co-Chair of the High-level Dialogue on Energy, noted during the launch of the Energy Compact Action Network on 4 May, “billions more in SDG 7 financing are expected to be leveraged by partnerships among foundations and industry associations.” To showcase the Network’s potential, during the launch event members discussed new or expanded coalitions to promote energy access and transition in Nigeria and Santiago, Chile, and to support green hydrogen and the role of women in the energy transition.

The Global Roadmap for Accelerated SDG 7 Action in Support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was released as the UN Secretary-General’s “forward-looking summary” of the HLDE several weeks after the Dialogue’s conclusion, on 3 November 2021. The roadmap called for action to: close the energy access gap; rapidly transition to decarbonized energy systems; mobilize adequate and predictable finance; leave no one behind on the path to a net zero future; and harness innovation, technology, and data. 

To achieve these objectives, the roadmap set out milestones for 2025 and 2030. By 2025, it suggested achieving the following:

  • 500 million more people have gained access to electricity; 
  • 1 billion more people have gained access to clean cooking solutions;
  • Annual investments in access to electricity increased to USD 35 billion and in access to clean cooking increased to USD 25 billion;
  • 100% increase in modern renewables capacity globally;
  • Double annual investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency globally; 
  • No new coal power plants in the pipeline after 2021;
  • Fossil fuel consumption subsidies redirected towards renewable energy and energy efficiency; and
  • 30 million jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Launched on 4 May, the UN-Energy Plan of Action towards 2025 – a “framework for collective action by nearly thirty UN and international organizations” to implement the SDG 7 roadmap in support of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change – responds to these asks by pledging to accelerate action, catalyze multi-stakeholder action, grow the momentum, inform the global agenda, and track and share results.

The Plan of Action will guide UN-Energy in translating commitments from recent summits on energy and climate change into concrete support for the most vulnerable.

The document emphasizes the role of “joint programmes, supported by UN-Energy and leveraging relevant Energy Compacts,” in scaling up collective action by the UN system, in collaboration with Member States and other stakeholders. These programmes are expected to contribute to the achievement of the UN-Energy pledge outlined in the Global Roadmap, as well as additional milestones, including:

  • 100% renewables-based power targets established in 100 countries;
  • 3% annual efficiency improvement in at least 50 countries across the world;
  • Annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to be reduced at least by one-third in 2025; and
  • Raise energy access investment to USD 40 billion, of which 50% is directed to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

UN-Energy pledges to “strengthen synergies across the SDGs, including the interlinkages of energy with employment; youth; health; education; climate; energy in displacement settings; the water-energy-food nexus; and others,” while advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.

To catalyze multi-stakeholder action, the Energy Compact Action Network, established and supported by UN-Energy, will mobilize additional Energy Compacts to match the ambition of the Global Roadmap. It will also “develop and apply dynamic monitoring frameworks, providing transparency in tracking progress on the Energy Compacts”; share results, impacts, opportunities, and lessons learned “on a real-time basis”; establish the global marketplace to connect offers of support with requests for SDG 7 action; and improve collaboration, coordination, and effectiveness of the network participants’ relevant activities.

To grow the momentum, UN-Energy will lead a global campaign for SDG 7 action, advocating for the implementation of the Global Roadmap, to, inter alia, help mobilize additional Energy Compacts and partnerships, and build global awareness and knowledge of SDG 7 and the means to achieve it. It will “lead by example” by greening UN-Energy organizations’ operations and achieving carbon neutrality through the ‘Greening the Blue’ initiative. It will also proposes convening an annual Global SDG 7 Action Forum in the margins of the UNGA High-level Week, as a multi-stakeholder platform to “constructively review, discuss and advance issues related to accelerating SDG 7 action, leveraging the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024 under the auspices of the General Assembly.”

UN-Energy undertakes to inform the global agenda by producing a series of evidence-based policy analyses, key messages for policymakers, and other analytical products and to track and share results by leveraging the power of data, digitalization, and visualization. An SDG 7 Action Data Hub, building on and upgrading the existing UN-Energy website, will bring together existing analysis, tools, best practices, indicators, and disaggregated data on SDG 7 and its interlinkages with climate action and other SDGs, and serve as a dynamic online platform for monitoring and tracking progress towards the milestones of the Global Roadmap.

Launching the Plan of Action towards 2025, Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN-Energy Co-Chair, and Co-Chair of the High-level Dialogue on Energy, said the “Plan of Action will guide UN-Energy in translating commitments from recent summits on energy and climate change into concrete support for the most vulnerable.” Steiner underscored that “through the Plan, the UN system will increase its inter-agency collaboration, offer monitoring and analysis to assess SDG 7 progress and gaps, and work to “walk the talk” by achieving net-zero facilities, procurement, and operations,” the UN-Energy Bulletin by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) notes.

Geopolitics and Energy Action: “Turning Crisis into an Opportunity”

Speakers during the 4 May event, which included the heads of UN agencies, UN Member States, and partners in four Energy Compacts, called for “radical and immediate action” to preserve the chance to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C or 2°C and to address global fossil fuel dependency. At the same time, according to the UN-Energy Bulletin, participants “highlighted the new challenges that the situation in Ukraine has introduced for global energy supplies and policy.” Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and the Secretary-General of the High-level Dialogue on Energy, said the “Ukraine crisis has affected food, energy, and finance markets, hurting the world’s most vulnerable people and slowing SDG progress and climate action.”

While the full scale of the impact the war in Ukraine will have on sustainable development is uncertain, the “need to address energy poverty while not compromising net-zero emissions targets” has become more pressing. The conflict has also brought to the fore the linkages between energy, climate, and security, which UN-Energy plans to explore in its forthcoming series of evidence-based policy analyses to inform global agenda setting. However, it remains to be seen whether the global community will succeed in, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently suggested, “turn[ing] this crisis into an opportunity” to make progress towards phasing out fossil fuels and accelerating the deployment of renewable energy and a just energy transition.

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In the run-up to the HLDE, the SDG Knowledge Hub published a series of policy briefs decoding net-zero pledges to meet Paris Agreement goals and SDG 7, discussing stakeholder input in terms of identifying gaps across HLDE themes and providing relevant recommendations, and analyzing messages from the HLDE Ministerials and Technical Working Group reports that showed “where we must go” in energy transition.