21 November 2017
COP 23 Energy Roundup: Thematic Events, Announcements and Reports Show that Global Energy Transition is “Irreversible”
Photo by IISD/ENB | Angeles Estrada
story highlights

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP 23) featured several thematic events and announcements related to the global clean energy transition.

At the official COP 23 Energy Day, speakers stated that the global energy transition is irreversible.

Other events, initiatives and reports focus on assisting countries in accelerating clean energy deployment and increasing cooperation with regard to reducing emissions from transport.

20 November 2017: Energy was a prominent issue on the sidelines of the the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, including four theme days on advancing the global energy transition and several announcements of initiatives and publications on challenges and opportunities on the road towards low-carbon energy systems. Overall, discussions held during the two weeks underlined the accelerating global shift towards cleaner and renewable energy sources.

COP 23 Energy Day

The official COP 23 Energy Day was held on 10 November, under the the auspices of the Marrakesh Partnership for Global Climate Action, and organized by the Climate Group, International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). The event featured four sessions covering the following themes: the state of the energy transition; the benefits and challenges associated with enabling the transition; pathways and business models necessary to catalyze action; and implementation steps to accelerate progress.

The clean energy transition is not only underway, but is irreversible.

The day provided a forum for representatives from private sector energy companies, cities, and NGOs focused on energy poverty to discuss the challenges, needs and opportunities regarding the energy transition. According to a press release issued by the UNFCCC Secretariat, the success stories, actions and new commitments shared show that “the clean energy transition is not only underway but is irreversible.”

In their interventions, the heads of IEA, IRENA and SEforALL underlined the importance of ensuring access to clan energy for all to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving air quality, health and economic development. Private sector representatives discussed their companies’ investments in renewable energy capacity and infrastructure, including charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, whereas mayors from several cities shared their experiences in setting and implementing sustainability goals and policies. [UNFCCC Press Release][SEforALL Press Release]

Renewable Energy Day

Co-hosted by IRENA, the Governments of Fiji, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, and Deutsche Post DHL, Renewable Energy Day was held on 12 November, focusing on ways to accelerate the global energy transition. Presentations and panel discussions addressed the following issues: accelerating the global energy transformation; China; innovation; leadership by countries, sub-national actors and businesses; paradigm shifts in corporate boardrooms; and driving the energy transformation from the bottom up.

Speakers focused on the benefits of accelerating the energy transition, including: shifting capital and investment flows from fossil fuels to renewable energy; allowing Africa to “leapfrog” energy development by using new energy technologies to exploit the continent’s renewable energy potential; stimulating economic growth by creating new industries and jobs; and opportunities for private corporations to “rethink” their business activities. [IRENA Press Release. 15 November 2017. Renewable Energy Day][Renewable Energy Day Agenda]

SIDS Energy Day

Focusing on the specific needs, challenges and opportunities of renewable energy in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), SIDS energy day was held on 13 November. Organized by IRENA, the event focused on the role of renewable energy as an enabler of prosperity and resilience in SIDS. Sessions focused on: transforming the energy landscape in SIDS; strengthening resilience to climate change and facilitating implementation of NDCs; and supporting SIDS energy sector transformation.

SIDS Heads of State and ministers attending the event stressed that climate change is a real threat to many island nations reinforcing the case for SIDS to invest in low-carbon energy solutions. Noting that financing continues to be the main challenge, speakers reported that SIDS governments and investors are increasingly realizing the economic and other benefits of renewable energy, allowing any island nations to emerge as clean energy leaders. [IRENA Press Release. 20 November 2017. SIDS Energy Day]

EU Energy Day

The EU held its own Energy Day event on 16 November, to discuss progress in the EU and globally towards a clean energy transition, and the transition’s potential to contribute to decarbonisation, economic growth and job creation. Sessions addressed, among other issues: the energy transition in the EU and the world, the Clean Energy for EU Islands initiative; collaboration between the EU and Africa in sustainable energy investment; and best practices by companies leading the energy transition. On the sidelines of the event, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the EU Covenant of Mayors and the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions. Under the agreement, the two organizations will strengthen bilateral cooperation on clean, smart, efficient and renewable energy technologies, related societal innovation, and low carbon development. [EU Commission Announcement][EU Commission Press Release. MOU with Covenant of Mayors]

Announcements and Events

In addition to the thematic events, COP 23 featured a number of energy-related announcements and events throughout the conference.

  • Thirteen countries and the IEA unveiled a €30 million multi-year plan to support clean energy transitions in emerging economies. The Clean Energy Transitions Programme will leverage IEA’s expertise on all fuel sources to accelerate clean energy transitions around the world, focusing on major emerging economies. [IEA Press Release]
  • IRENA released a report titled, ‘Untapped Potential for Climate Action: Renewable Energy in Nationally Determined Contributions.’ The publication outlines the potential for the accelerated deployment of renewable energy, noting that renewable energy pledges in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) lag behind actual development trends and national energy targets. [IRENA Press Release][Executive Summary][Untapped Potential for Climate Action: Renewable Energy in Nationally Determined Contributions]
  • IRENA also announced a partnership with the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), under which SGCC will make available its technical expertise and experience in installing renewable energy capacity to countries in Africa, Central America, and South East Asia. According to the agreement, SGCC will second technical experts to IRENA to assist in the implementation of IRENA’s Clean Corridor Initiatives. [IRENA Press Release][IRENA Clean Energy Corridors]
  • Focusing on opportunities for renewable energies in China, the China National Renewable Energy Centre (CNREC) and Germany’s Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) released a report titled, ‘China’s Renewable Energy Outlook.’ Published for the second time, the 2017 edition focuses on short-term actions to remove obstacles for renewable energy development in China for a low-carbon transition towards 2050. [CNREC Press Release][China’s Renewable Energy Outlook]
  • The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched additional hubs for its ‘below50’ initiative focusing on collaboration along the fuel value chain to develop sustainable fuels that produce at lease 50% less CO2 emissions than conventional fossil fuels. The launch of new hubs in North America, South America and Australia is expected to create demand for such fuels and allow companies to scale up sustainable fuel production and use. [UNFCCC Press Release][below50 Website]
  • With a view towards reducing emissions from transportation, the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC) launched the Transport Decarbonization Alliance (TDA) to improve coordination among national, local and corporate initiatives on low carbon transport. [UNFCCC Press Release][PPMC Press Release]

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