Sustainable Renewable Energy Key to Unlocking Developing Countries’ Potential, Achieving Global Goals, Speakers Tell High-Level Political Forum
Moving towards sustainable modern energy will require that renewable sources make up 60 per cent of power generation by 2030, and in turn, will support resilient industry and infrastructure in developing countries, speakers stressed, as the high-level political forum on sustainable development — held under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council — continued its discussion today on how to effect this transformation.
Convened under the theme “Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels”, the forum — which runs until 19 July — will explore policies and transformations needed to overcome the multiple crises that continue to threaten decades of progress made in development around the world. Particular emphasis will be placed on trends and policies related to Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation); Goal 7 (affordable and clean energy); Goal 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure); Goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities); and Goal 17 (partnerships for the Goals and their linkages to other Goals).
Delivering a keynote address on Goal 7, Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted that 80 per cent of the energy used worldwide today is still derived from fossil fuels, the primary driver of climate change. However, a zero-emission energy supply by mid-century is technically within reach. Wind and solar energy infrastructure are now cheaper to build than fossil-fuel power plants in 85 per cent of the world, but “fossil fuel subsidies have to end”, he affirmed.
Leonardo Souza of the Statistics Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) presented highlights from the special edition of the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the Goals (document E/2023/64). Reporting that close to 2 billion people will still rely on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030, he underscored that renewable sources accounted for 19 per cent of global final energy consumption in 2020, two thirds of which consisted of modern renewable sources.
Also presenting highlights from the report, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), pointed out that Latin America and the Caribbean’s annual investment in renewables of 1.3 per cent of regional gross domestic product (GDP) over a decade “would create 7 million new green jobs”. A just transition to renewable energy will require Governments to strengthen policies and leverage both foreign direct investment and private sector investment.
In the first of two panels held during the day, on “SDG 7 and interlinkages with other SDGs — Affordable and clean energy”, speakers highlighted the centrality of energy and a just transition in achieving the Global Goals, while also noting that many low-income and developing countries’ progress is impacted by multidimensional challenges.
Guangzhe Chen, Vice President for Infrastructure of the World Bank, noted that every second person in the sub–Saharan African region still lives without electricity. “This is denying a life transforming opportunity for these populations,” he said. The World Bank, with a current portfolio in energy projects of $10 billion, supported Nigeria’s electrification programme, which transformed that country. Accelerating the pace of global electrification will require a fundamental shift in the way energy access is conceived.
However, Yoko Lu of Action for the Respect and the Protection of the Environment underscored that — even though the development of clean energy technologies is recovering — the current structural progress in not headed for the long-term achievement of the Goals. “The private sector prioritizes profits over people, violating human rights and environmental protection, enabling the lack of accountability structures and institutions,” she stressed.
Focusing on Goal 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), Faryal Ahmed, Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, also provided highlights from the Secretary-General’s report (document E/2023/64), noting that the manufacturing industry’s recovery from the pandemic remains incomplete. Even though the share of manufacturing as a proportion of gross domestic product in least developed countries increased from 12.1 per cent in 2015 to 14 per cent in 2022, they are likely to miss their target of doubling its share by 2030, she warned.
In the ensuing panel discussion on “SDG 9 and interlinkages with other SDGs — Industry, innovation and infrastructure”, speakers emphasized how progress and resilience hinge upon advances from industrial development to the digital sphere, with synergies across the Goals.
Reporting on the digital domain, Shahla Naimi, Senior Program Manager of Google, noted that a transformation in line with its Digital Sprinters framework could generate as much as $3.4 trillion in emerging markets by 2030. However, these markets will never reach their economic objectives if women are systematically excluded, as nearly 1 billion women and other marginalized groups still do not even have a bank account. In Africa, she noted Google’s Equiano subsea cable is expected to increase Internet speed in Nigeria fivefold and triple it in South Africa, perhaps indirectly creating 1.6 million jobs in those countries over the next four years.
Adding to that was Sabrina Atwine, CEO of Nimarungi and a young entrepreneur from Uganda, who described growing up in a slum area where she experienced first-hand the lack of resources and opportunities for children. Uganda has the second youngest population globally, but they lack access to quality education. Africa is home to 1.3 billion people, possesses 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, and holds 30 per cent of the world’s reserve minerals, yet contributes only 3 per cent of GDP and generates a mere 0.1 per cent of all patents. “As a young African tech entrepreneur, I’m working so hard to see these numbers change,” she stated.
The Economic and Social Council’s high-level political forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 13 July.
Sustainable Development Goal 7 — Affordable and Clean Energy
Focusing on Goal 7 (affordable and clean energy), LEONARDO SOUZA of the Statistics Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) presented related highlights from the special edition of the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the Goals (document E/2023/64). While the world continues to advance towards sustainable energy targets, it is not fast enough. At the current pace, about 660 million people will still lack access to electricity and close to 2 billion people will still rely on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030. He observed great regional disparities, with the lack of access negatively affecting health, education, gender equality, climate action and the economy. Renewable sources accounted for 19 per cent of global final energy consumption in 2020, two thirds of which consist of modern renewable sources.
He further noted that the electricity sector shows the largest share of renewables, whereas the heating and transport sectors have lagged behind. Meeting target 7.2 will require sustained policy momentum, as well as mobilization of public and private investment, particularly in developing countries. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the annual improvement of energy intensity in 2020 slowed down to 0.6 per cent, although it is expected that the pace will pick up. However, to make up for lost time, energy intensity improvements will need to average 3.4 per cent per year until 2030. Prioritizing energy efficiency in policy and increasing investment can help the world achieve energy and climate targets. He voiced concern that international public financial flows in support of clean energy in developing countries have been on a decreasing trend, starting even before the pandemic and continuing through 2021. Such a trend jeopardizes the chances of achieving energy goals, particularly for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, he stressed.
Also presenting highlights from the report, ARMIDA SALSIAH ALISJAHBANA, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), spotlighted the regional perspective on the implementation of Goal 7. In that regard, she reported that Africa remains the least electrified region with 589 million people lacking access to electricity. The Economic Commission for Africa has emphasized the need for countries in the region and their partners to promote a just transition to renewable energy and scale up green and resilient infrastructure. To achieve this, Governments need to strengthen their policies and create an enabling environment to leverage both foreign direct investment and private sector investment to fund the energy transition. In Europe, renewable energy and energy efficiency have not moved fast enough. Improving data quality and reliability is needed to track and measure progress, she said.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, boosting renewables has the potential to promote new industrial sectors and their value chains such as green hydrogen, she continued. It is estimated that an annual investment is needed, equal to 1.3 per cent of regional gross domestic product (GDP) over a decade, in order to progress the energy transition. “This would create 7 million new green jobs,” she said. For the Western Asian region, accelerating the energy transition requires Governments to fund research and set targets to increase the share of renewables. Cooperation with banks and private companies is also needed to secure appropriate financing mechanisms for projects, especially small projects in modern sustainable energy. Lastly, in Asia and the Pacific, the pandemic and global energy crisis have combined to create dramatic energy price increases. “Some countries in the region have responded by implementing measures to improve energy efficiency and shift towards renewable energy,” she noted. Reducing the economic burdens from fossil fuels and enhancing energy affordability requires investment in energy efficiency, electrification, and renewable energy, she added.
Delivering a keynote address, DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, said the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the current energy and inflation crisis have slowed progress towards most of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the international community has an opportunity and obligation to reverse this trend. Energy is intertwined with two thirds of the 169 Sustainable Development Goals targets. Universal access to affordable and sustainable energy has the potential to bring about significant positive impacts, such as economic opportunities, job creation, gender empowerment, improved education and health care and enhanced resilience to climate change. Energy — representing a unique dichotomy — is global in nature, yet highly contextualized on a local level. At a global level, there is a need to bolster diplomacy efforts to build more ambitious political will to end energy poverty.
“We must avail the financing and technologies needed to bridge current energy access gaps and put us on the path to a clean energy future,” she continued. In this regard, the Energy Compacts, representing the largest global multistakeholder platform for advancing action on Goal 7 and net-zero, are of great importance. As a high-impact initiative, the Energy Compacts drive action on closing energy access gaps, phasing out coal-fired power and decarbonizing energy systems while also growing the economy, creating jobs and ensuring sustainable development. At the national and sub-national levels, she called for specific policies to expand infrastructure and upgrade technology, noting that Governments need to establish an enabling environment that de-risks investments, supports innovation and accelerates clean energy transitions further. To this end, energy transition plans are critical policy tools, providing an economy-wide multi-sectoral approach towards bridging energy access gaps while maximizing energy transition opportunities. Similarly, Governments should develop integrated energy plans that can help direct investment and resources effectively to meet electrification and clean cooking access, she said.
Also delivering a keynote address, SIMON STIELL, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted that 80 per cent of the energy used worldwide today is still derived from fossil fuels, which constitutes the primary driver of climate change. With seven years to cut emissions almost by half, “it is an unprecedented challenge, but it is possible”, he said. To move towards a zero-emission energy supply by mid-century, renewable energy sources must make up 60 per cent of power generation by 2030, which is technically within reach. Wind and solar energy infrastructure are now cheaper to build than fossil-fuel power plants in 85 per cent of the world, but deployment needs to be five times faster to achieve the 2030 target. He emphasized that those 700 million people with no access to electricity have an opportunity to “leapfrog” if microgrids — based on solar and wind power — are built in remote areas.
However, he stressed, none of this will happen without the right policies and — above all — financial and technical support from developed countries. “Fossil fuel subsidies have to end,” he affirmed, with capital redirected to support renewables and energy conservation. Governments must send clear signals to the energy sector that they support implementing a rapid and just transition, de-risking investments and lowering the cost of capital. Noting that international public financial flows supporting clean energy in low- and middle-income countries have been decreasing over the past few years, he stated that “this must change”. Rapid transition is a tremendous economic and social opportunity to create jobs, spearhead technologies and bring people into a clean-energy future. “It must be a just transition, where those who have contributed least to centuries of fossil fuel emissions must be protected and assisted by those who have benefited most from the decades of fossil fuel extraction and consumption,” he added.
Moderating the panel discussion “SDGs in focus: SDG 7 and interlinkages with other SDGs — Affordable and clean energy” was Sheila Oparaocha, Executive Director of Energia. The featured panellists included: Guangzhe Chen, Vice President for Infrastructure, World Bank; Hans Olav Ibrekk, Special Envoy for Climate and Security, Norway; and Yoko Lu, Action for the Respect and the Protection of the Environment. The lead discussant was David Arinze, Programme Officer, Off-Grid Energy, Diamond Development Initiatives of Nigeria, and youth speaker. Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and Yusra Khan, Ambassador and Environment Stakeholder Member, National Energy Council of Indonesia, spoke as ministerial respondents.
Mr. CHEN said that energy access is at the heart of economic and human development. It is therefore deeply unfortunate that every second person in the sub–Saharan African region still lives without electricity. “This is denying a life transforming opportunity for these populations,” he said. The World Bank acts as a major financier for supporting energy development, with a current portfolio in energy projects standing at $10 billion. The Bank is in the process of continuing to expand its energy financing to support and help meet global energy challenges. Spotlighting its energy contributions in Rwanda and Nigeria specifically, he reported that supporting Nigeria’s electrification programme has transformed the country. Accelerating the pace of global electrification will require a fundamental shift in the way energy access is conceived, he emphasized, outlining several recommendations in that regard. Governments need to show sustained political commitments to electrification. He urged Member States to take advantage of all the technological advancements, including in areas of renewable energies and digital transformations.
Mr. IBREKK said that more than 90 per cent of the increase in clean-energy investment in recent years occurred in advanced economies and China. Meanwhile, Africa — where access to energy is the lowest — received less than 1 per cent of global investment in renewable energy in 2021. Global numbers mask increasing inequalities, he pointed out, urging the international community to drive investment in lower-income economies where the private sector has been reluctant to enter. Greater focus on domestic resource mobilization is needed, and he called for reviewing taxation and strengthening local financial systems. Further, education and training must be greatly increased to ensure development of the skills needed for an energy-system transformation. Underscoring the need for new partnerships, he said that the just energy-transition partnerships developed by the G7 (Group of Seven) countries are a promising avenue forward. Meanwhile, United Nations agencies and missions operate more than 20,000 diesel generators, and transitioning such operations to renewable energy presents an opportunity for both the Organization and host countries to simultaneously deliver on climate, development, peace and security objectives, he added.
Ms. LU highlighted the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, transforming the lives of women, girls and gender-diverse people. In the energy sector, the pandemic has caused alarming disruptions and delays to clean energy transitions. Even though the development of clean energy technologies is recovering, the current structural progress is not headed for the long-term achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Strategies, such as trade and investment liberalization, weaken domestic resource mobilization, especially in developing countries. “The private sector prioritizes profits over people, violating human rights and environmental protection, enabling the lack of accountability structures and institutions,” she stressed. Citing extraction as “the key source for the energy sector”, she said that the transition to affordable and clean energy is accompanied by reduced extractivism and increased focus on marginalized and vulnerable communities. To ensure just and inclusive energy transitions, it is essential to prioritize investments in a transition towards low-carbon, renewable energy infrastructure and technology that is community-owned and democratically controlled, while upholding ethical and human rights standards.
Mr. ARINZE said that young people around the globe can play a role in effecting a just, inclusive and equitable energy transition. As students, career professionals and entrepreneurs, they exemplify resilience, passion and solutions that are already making meaningful contributions to address the challenge of energy access. However, more deliberate action is needed to empower youth and enable them to continue to lead more bankable and sustainable clean-energy enterprises; stimulate more ground-breaking research; and catalyse effective awareness regarding the potential of clean energy in addressing the energy deficit. This would allow them to continue to take meaningful action given their commitment to the cause, he stressed, calling on Member States to see young people as a capacity bank to be leveraged for a clean-energy future.
Ms. AL-HOSANY noted that the United Arab Emirates aims to enhance the efficiency of individual and institutional energy consumption by 42 to 45 per cent by 2030. It will also seek to raise the share of clean energy to 30 per cent by 2031 and to 35 per cent by 2035. Over the last decade, the country has increased its renewable-energy capacity more than any other and is now working to more than triple its installed capacity to almost 15 gigawatts. These goals are aligned with the need to triple global renewable-energy capacity by 2030, as the International Renewable Energy Agency has pointed out in its report on global energy transitions. “Though we are located in the so-called heartland of the hydrocarbon economy, the UAE sees the energy transition as a major opportunity,” she stated, noting the possibility of creating 50,000 new green jobs and engaging the vast youth demographic.
Mr. KHAN said that energy transition is not only about shifting from fossil fuels to new and renewable energy. “It’s also about accessibility, availability, acceptability and affordability,” he observed. For Indonesia, developing a green economy and transitioning to renewable energy is a development priority. “We have set a road map towards renewable energy transition,” he said, as Indonesia has committed to become carbon neutral by 2060 and is working to retire its coal plants by 2050. However, many developing and emerging economies — such as Indonesia — are facing big challenges in achieving these targets, including limited access to clean energy, research and development, and technology. He emphasized that, to overcome such obstacles, enhancing international cooperation with relevant stakeholders — including the private sector — is important, particularly in areas such as technology transfer and adequate financing.
As the floor opened for the interactive dialogue, speakers underscored the need to ensure access to affordable and sustainable energy for all, with some outlining national initiatives to reverse the setbacks in achieving universal energy access.
The representative of Nepal, on behalf of least developed countries, said energy is the critical enabler for capacity-building and structural economic transformation. Household pollution — mostly from cooking — disproportionally impacts women and children. Structural transformation of the energy sector in least developed countries is needed to enable the transition to modern and clean energy systems.
In that regard, Colombia’s delegate spotlighted her country’s potential for non-conventional renewable energy, especially solar, wind and green hydrogen. Transitioning towards a decarbonized capitalism is essential to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change and Goal 13. The Government is working to realize energy sources based on a system of energy communities.
Pointing to the global consequence of the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on energy prices worldwide, Denmark’s delegate stressed: “We must use the current crisis to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.” She also highlighted the need to reach communities living in energy poverty and focus on clean cooking.
Echoing that, Madagascar’s delegate underlined the need to accelerate the just energy transition, putting an end to energy poverty and eliminating climate change by ensuring de-carbonized energy sources, creating green jobs and investing in renewables. Thus, access to financing must be simplified and accelerated for developing countries, he stressed.
On that note, the representative of Ethiopia, noting his country’s aim to achieving universal access to electric service, said that Ethiopia needs to invest $30 billion in building new energy infrastructure, including hydropower plants. However, there are difficulties accessing international finance.
Indigenous people, said the representative of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development, constitute the majority of people without access to affordable clean energy. Yet their lands and territories are exposed to multiple threats, with the rise of mega hydropower projects and mining of transition minerals, implemented without their free and prior consent. “We are not against the transition to clean energy. However, the transition has to be implemented with the recognition and respect for Indigenous people’s rights,” she asserted.
The World Meteorological Organization’s representative said that the situation in Africa is “a huge opportunity” for the continent to close the gap in the global need for renewable energy. Africa is home to 60 per cent of the best solar resources globally, but only 1 per cent of installed photovoltaics capacity, she reported.
Responding, Ms. LU spotlighted the numerous mentions of the importance of including women, youth and small-scale farmers and the focus on clean cooking, increased North-South and South-South cooperation and greater financing. She called for further research and development and innovative solutions.
Mr. IBREKK pointed to clear messages of the interlinkage between energy and other Goals and the importance of country ownership and leadership. The international community must beef up action on clean cooking. This is a political target to deliver on, while “we are at halftime, if you use the soccer or football analogy, and we are way behind, and we need to find the right coach” to win the game.
Mr. CHEN said that innovations in renewable energy and energy storage have driven down costs in low-income countries. Such technologies must be scaled up and expanded “rather than reinventing the wheel”. He further called for expanded digital payment methods and an annual investment of $1 trillion in energy transition, 60 per cent of which must come from the private sector.
Sustainable Development Goal 9 — Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Focusing on Goal 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), FARYAL AHMED, Statistics Division of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, provided highlights from the special edition of the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the Goals (document E/2023/64). She said that the manufacturing industry’s recovery from the coronavirus disease pandemic remains incomplete and uneven, with global manufacturing growth down from 7.4 per cent in 2021 to 3.3 per cent in 2022. “This is primarily due to high inflation, energy price shocks, persistent disruptions in the supply of raw materials and intermediate goods, and global economic deceleration,” she noted.
Even though the share of manufacturing as a proportion of GDP in least developed countries increased from 12.1 per cent in 2015 to 14 per cent in 2022, the least developed countries are likely to miss their target of doubling their share by 2030, she warned. Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes grew by 0.9 per cent to a new all-time high of 36.8 billion metric tons in 2022, reverting to a decade-long trend of decoupling emissions and economic growth. While overall global manufacturing growth slowed in 2022, medium-high- and high-technology industries experienced strong growth. However, there was a large regional variation in that sector within total manufacturing in 2020. Moreover, mobile broadband coverage of 3G or higher was available to 95 per cent of the global population in 2022, compared to 78 per cent in 2015. Connecting the remaining 5 per cent presents challenges, she said, adding: “The coverage gap is 18 per cent in sub-Saharan African and 32 per cent in Oceania”.
Moderating the panel discussion “SDG 9 and interlinkages with other SDGs — Industry, innovation and infrastructure” was Jan Beagle, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). The featured panellists included: Norichika Kanie, Professor at the Graduate School of Media Governance, Keio University, Japan, and member of the Independent Group of Scientists writing the Global Sustainable Development Report; Shahla Naimi, Senior Program Manager at Google; Axel Berger, Deputy Director (interim), German Institute of Development and Sustainability; and Sabrina Atwine, CEO of Nimarungi, young entrepreneur, Uganda. The lead discussant was Nagesh Kumar, Director of the Indian Institute for Studies in Industrial Development.
Ms. ATWINE said that growing up in a slum area, she experienced firsthand the lack of resources and opportunities for children. According to a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, Uganda has the second youngest population globally, with 78 per cent of its citizens below the age of 35. Sadly, these agents of change lack access to quality education. This results in high rates of unemployment and a huge blocker to industrialization, infrastructure and innovation development. Africa is home to 1.3 billion people, possesses 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, and holds 30 per cent of the world's reserve minerals. Yet its contribution is only 3 per cent of the world's GDP; accounts for less than 3 per cent of international trade; and generates a mere 2 per cent of the world’s research output and 0.1 per cent of all patents. “As a young African tech entrepreneur, I’m working so hard to see these numbers change,” she said. Investing approximately $100 million could impact the lives of young entrepreneurs by skilling them with artificial intelligence capabilities and giving them access to data and laptops that can help them actualize their potential and contribute to Goal 9.
Mr. KANIE noted the importance of science in scaling up actions and facilitating levers of transformation. In the Global Sustainable Development Report, the team came up with a model starting with the emergent phase, moving then to acceleration and then stabilization. Evaluation is a key element in making progress on the Goals, he stated, further citing the importance of research and development in the Global South. Knowledge-sharing and capacity-building are also important levers for scaling up action towards acceleration, while creating demand is also crucial, as a call for renewable energy accelerates research in that domain. Information technology is further important for connecting people even in time of crisis, including his team’s virtual meetings during the pandemic. Technology can also make things measurable, such as who is being left behind, and where, while paying attention to the digital divide. He called for more innovation in governance, technology and science.
Ms. NAIMI recalled that Google released the Digital Sprinters framework in 2020 to help countries become more digital and move towards economic development. A digital transformation in line with the framework could generate as much as $3.4 trillion in emerging markets by 2030. However, these markets will never reach their economic objectives if women are systematically excluded, she stressed, pointing out that nearly 1 billion women and other historically marginalized groups still do not have a bank account. Digital finance can be used to address many of the barriers that prevent such groups from accessing bank accounts. Also spotlighting Google’s investments in Internet infrastructure, she said that its Equiano subsea cable is expected to increase Internet speed in Nigeria fivefold and triple it in South Africa. Over the next four years, Equiano should indirectly create 1.6 million jobs in those countries alone. She also said that Google is heavily focused on unlocking opportunities in artificial intelligence. But to get it right, she said that policymakers must invest in competitiveness; promote legal frameworks that support responsible innovation; and prepare workforces for job transition.
Mr. BERGER, highlighting fundamental and structural challenges faced by least developed countries, pointed to high entry barriers in advanced markets due to the need to reach economies of scale amid increasingly oligopolistic practices. He emphasized that developing countries need the policy space to adopt regulations that help de-couple manufacturing. “Having the space is one thing, another is knowing the direction,” he said, adding that structural change requires the capacity to anticipate future growth sectors. To build this capacity for foresight, international cooperation is crucial. Further, the development of technological and manufacturing capacities must be considered a public good, without which a green global economy cannot be achieved. In this regard, he cited the production of vaccines in developing countries and the use of green hydrogen as enablers of local production in energy-intensive sectors. He also underscored the need to change international economic frameworks to promote sustainable investments in developing countries.
Mr. KUMAR pointed out efforts to revive India’s economy, including credit guarantees and collateral-free loans for medium and small enterprises, the Digital India programme to build inclusive public infrastructure, and a national master plan for multimodal logistics infrastructure. Efforts also included boosting 14 green and digital industries through production-linked incentives, including solar equipment, lithium batteries, electronics, telecom and networking equipment, and medical devices. He noted two lessons: well-crafted and executed projects do deliver, as India has gone from being a net importer to net exporter of toys and mobile handsets, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Also, well formulated green industrial policies for industries including solar photovoltaic cells can help achieve clean transition and have spill overs for other Goals and targets, for inclusive and sustainable transformation.
Ms. BEAGLE then invited the panellists to reflect upon their colleagues’ comments and respond with additional thoughts.
Mr. BERGER highlighted one aspect not discussed on the panel, that of negative spill-overs which are unintended cross-border effects that hinder other countries from implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. “So, think about embedded carbon in imports, the export of pesticides or tax systems that allow profit shifting and tax avoidance,” he said, adding that there are regulations in many countries, in particular in advanced markets, to address those effects. But there are also trade-offs. These laws and regulations need to be developed in a participatory way so that also those affected by the negative spill overs, in particular, developing countries, have a say in how to develop the regulations.
Ms. NAIMI emphasized the role and importance of prioritizing sustainability and sustainable infrastructure development. “We know that LDCs (least developed countries) are most impacted with the effects of climate change,” she said.
Mr. KHAN emphasized the importance of science working with society. “We talked about socially accountable science,” he said, adding that science should not be seen as if it is in an “Ivory Tower”. Science has to go hand-in-hand with society.
Ms. ATWINE said that being part of a tech-innovation programme has enabled her to learn how to develop programmes and businesses and be a young entrepreneur in the ecosystem. The programme challenges young girls to identify problems in their communities and solve them by using mobile applications. “Through this programme, I have learned to be passionate and to keep trying at all levels,” she added.
As the floor opened for the interactive discussion, speakers, detailing ways to advance the Global Goals through technology and innovation, called for financial resources and support towards such aims while urging that environmental concerns be incorporated in infrastructure design.
In that vein, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania stressed the need for collaborative efforts in order to mobilize financial resources from both the public and private sectors, thus promoting investments in industry development and sustainable infrastructure.
However, Guatemala’s delegate, while noting that Goal 9 has been incorporated in his country’s priorities, with investments and new job creations in 60 projects, also recalled that Cyclone Julia led to more than $200 million loss to his country’s infrastructure, demonstrating its vulnerability to climate change.
To that point, the representative of Switzerland pointed out that, when poorly designed, infrastructure can have significant repercussions on the environment and populations. Seventy-five per cent of the infrastructure still needing to be built by 2050 will require vast quantities of materials such as sand, gravel and metals, the extraction of which has adverse effects on the environment. Sand resources present “one of the greatest sustainability challenges” of the twenty-first century, he noted.
Echoing that, Kenya’s delegate stressed that it is important to maximize investments to advance technologies and lower carbon emissions. In this regard, Kenya has identified the digital superhighway as one of the key economic growth pillars which will play a key role in advancing e-commerce, e-governance and e-business, he said.
The representative of Türkiye, recalling the earthquakes which struck the country last February and affected 50 million people, emphasized that it is vital to take disaster risk reduction measures and ensure resilience of infrastructure before disasters happen. To that end, she highlighted her Government’s green recovery approach that aims to improve economic, social and environmental conditions.
Responding, Mr. KANIE said it is important to enhance synergies and eliminate trade-offs. It is important to create institutional mechanisms to facilitate interlinkages and transform consumer prospects. That means not only on the supply side, but also on changing the demand side approach. Indicators, which could change the perspective of people, may also help enhance interlinkages between different issues.
Ms. NAIMI said that some of these challenges will require fundamental research to better understand how to manage them. As a company, Google is deeply committed to the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights. “Whether it’s launching new products, or expanding our operations globally, we’re guided by internationally recognized human rights standards,” she said. Google is eager to support States, civil society organizations, and intergovernmental bodies in this process.
Mr. BERGER stressed that infrastructure must be sustainable, “because we are building this infrastructure for at least 50 years, if not more”. The world economy is changing rapidly and, thus, changing the circumstances for competition and industrialization. “So that’s a huge challenge, which needs to be reflected,” he said. There are several laws that have tried to regulate the spill-over effects and reduce them. “But there are many trade-offs that we have to be very aware of,” he added.
Ms. ATWINE underscored the critical role of apprenticeships. It is vital to ensure that professionals and workers who are already in the working system can provide support to future employees and young people. “How can they better support young people to actually take up these spaces and contribute to and transform their communities?” she asked.