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UN: World way off track to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050

To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the world must over the next decade cut carbon emissions by at least 45% below 2010 levels, says UN secretary-general António Guterres.

He was addressing more than 20 ministerial Global Champions at a virtual High-level Dialogue on Energy – the global platform where governments, businesses and others can come together to recommit to more sustainable energy usage.

Guterres emphasised that the world is “way off track” and needs to use the COVID-19 recovery period to build a sustainable economy, driven by renewables. “If we want this energy transition to be just, and to succeed in creating new jobs, a cleaner and healthier environment and a resilient future, developing countries need strong support,” he said.

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In the lead up to an Energy Summit in September, Guterres saw this Dialogue as an opportunity to “accelerate the deployment of renewables globally and ensure that the developing world has access to them”.  

Five Technical Working Groups will prepare a global roadmap to achieve the seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7) of affordable and clean energy for all by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. As energy consumption accounts for three-quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions, achieving this goal will contribute to addressing the climate crisis. 

In the months ahead, the Global Champion Ministers will galvanise voluntary energy compact commitments towards achieving SDG 7. These voluntary commitments will align with their countries’ plans committing them to increasingly ambitious climate actions, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and long-term climate goals under the Paris Agreement.

Recommit to the future

During this transition year, the co-chair of the High-level Dialogue and Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All upheld the need for bold action so no one is left behind. 

Damilola Ogunbiyi, also a High-Level Champion, commented: “From powering health clinics to creating new jobs, energy is at the heart of a prosperous future for all. Faster progress on SDG 7 will support climate action, allow us to recover better from COVID-19 and achieve our global goals.” 

In addition to environmental impacts, the continued use of solid cooking fuels indoors causes over 1.6 million premature deaths a year, most of them women and children, according to the UN. The global roadmap and energy compacts push transitions away from fossil fuels while helping some 800 million people who have no access to electricity, and nearly three billion who lack clean, modern cooking and heating fuels.  

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Dialogue Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin, who also heads the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said: “The push this year on sustainable energy, leading up to the large-scale commitments we expect to be announced by many stakeholders…should help us take a giant leap towards achieving SDG 7 by the 2030 deadline.”

This year will see a series of UN summits and conferences including the Global Sustainable Transport Conference, the Food Systems Summi, and the key Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow (COP 26), that will provide major opportunities to advance the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

“The year 2021 must be a historic tipping point towards sustainable energy for all,” said Achim Steiner, co-chair of the High-level Dialogue and Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). 

“As the existential threat of climate change looms, none of us can afford to fail. I urge every country, every organization, every business to become involved by joining an energy compact, a voluntary commitment to scale up sustainable energy,” he added.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.