Addressing Climate Emergency Will Require Massive Shift towards Renewable Sources, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses, at Economic Commission for Europe Forum

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Regional Forum for Sustainable Development, in Geneva today:

I congratulate the Government of Armenia and the Czech Republic for steering this regional forum on sustainable development.  And special appreciation to Tatiana Molcean for bringing us together here today — for the first time in your capacity as Executive Secretary of ECE.

Humanity is facing complex challenges.  Geopolitical tensions, conflict and instability are causing untold suffering.

Two years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this war remains an open wound — for your region and for the world — and threatens the very norms agreed upon to ensure a peaceful and secure world.

There can be no sustainable development without peace. And neither sustainable development nor peace without respect for human rights.

And sustainable development efforts in the region have faced strong headwinds.  From the COVID-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crises, to financing, food and energy vulnerabilities, and a triple planetary crisis — we are facing a “perfect storm”.

Access to sufficient and nutritious food is not guaranteed.  In one third of the countries in the region, over one in 10 adults face food insecurity.

The region is on a pathway to achieve only 17 per cent of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets by 2030.  Fiscal constraints, high borrowing costs and debt burdens are further casting shadows.  Between 2010 and 2022, public debt in Europe and Central Asia grew 2.5 times.

Environmental indicators are also flashing red.  From water scarcity in Central Asia to devastating floods in the Western Balkans — we see a rollback on freshwater availability and access, increased waste and pollution, loss of biodiversity, desertification and land degradation.

Yet, there is reason for hope.  At the SDG Summit last September, Governments endorsed a political declaration that constitutes a renewed commitment to accelerate the policies and investments that can drive transformative change across the SDGs — and finally deliver on the 2030 Agenda.

Change will only come with the necessary investments and unlocking financing from all sources — the international community has a duty to provide the needed support.

We will not relent in pushing for an SDG Stimulus of $500 billion a year in affordable, long-term finance for developing countries. The Stimulus also calls for a debt lifeline to give countries breathing room and the expansion of contingency financing for countries in need.

But the Declaration is only the first step.  We need to ramp up action, focusing on key transitions, from food systems, energy and climate action, to education, digitalization, jobs and social protection.

Your region is diverse, with strong income disparities and different development challenges.  Yet, many countries are demonstrating how a long-term vision can drive these transitions.

Allow me to highlight four areas in particular.

First, inclusive and sustainable energy coupled with climate action.

The green transition impacts many SDGs.

In Central Asia, hydrocarbons account for 95 per cent of the energy supply.

Addressing the climate emergency requires a massive shift towards renewable sources.

Investment opportunities must be supported by ambitious and economy-wide nationally determined contributions.

Across the region, many collaborative initiatives have emerged in recent years — from the European Green Deal and the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans to the work carried out under the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia.

The recent nature restoration law aims to rehabilitate at least 20 per cent of the European Union’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all degraded ecosystems by 2050.  And the Air Convention has led to improved air quality over the last decades — highlighting the benefits of multilateral cooperation.

Second, food security and sustainable food systems.

The Sofia Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans presents a significant commitment to sustainable agriculture and food production.

We must invest in efficient infrastructures and place a particular emphasis on emission reduction and climate adaptation in rural areas.

Third, education.

In the region, high inequalities still continue to exist between advantaged and disadvantaged students — putting SDG 4 in jeopardy. All the while, education systems are grappling with how to ensure learners are equipped with the values, the skills and the knowledge needed to thrive in rapidly changing societies and economies.

The Transforming Education Summit tackled these issues head on and put education back at the top of the global agenda.  It is also critical to build on its outcomes.  I urge all countries to deliver on their national commitments to education transformation.

It is also essential that we invest more, more effectively and more efficiently in education, that we strengthen the engagement of youth and other stakeholders in education planning processes, and that we maximize international cooperation across key issues from foundational learning to digital learning.

In addition, at the Summit of the Future this September, Governments have an opportunity to signal their intention to transition from traditional education systems to a new model of learning societies; to strengthen the UN’s capacity to accompany Governments in this endeavour; and to rethink the global education financing model in advance of the World Social Summit and the Financing for Development Conference in 2025.

Fourth, digital connectivity.

The region has witnessed a surge in digitalization, underlining the transformative potential of advanced technologies.  But uneven distribution can exacerbate inequalities. Beyond access, issues such as cost, speed and reliability persist in many Central Asian countries.

I urge all countries to take action to close the digital divide — which is essential to transform key sectors like industry, health, education, finance and agriculture.

Across these important transitions, our presence in your countries and the regional capacities represented with ECE are ready to help you strengthening institutions, shaping policy and regulatory frameworks, and harnessing investment pathways.

And we are committed to helping you garner the support you need from multilateral and regional development banks — as well as leverage the private investors.

But at this session, we want to continue to harvest the ideas and input as we reform the global governance of the future.

The Summit of the Future in September will be an important opportunity to strengthen the role of global cooperation in supporting sustainable development, peace and human rights for all.

A successful outcome of the Summit of the Future will help to create the right conditions that will accelerate and realize the SDGs.

Let’s keep our gaze also on the future.  Let’s build a more supportive global environment for health, peace and sustainable development.

We must deliver on our promises.

For information media. Not an official record.