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Speech by Minister of International Development Cooperation Isabella Lövin Speech at Sustainable Energy for All’s event
Speech at Sustainable Energy for All’s event in conjunction with the UN member states adoption of Agenda 2030: Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030
Thank you Director General Amin, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted and honoured to participate in this high-level event on the seventh Sustainable Development Goal – ensuring access to sustainable energy for all. This goal is at the very heart of sustainable development. It is at the heart of determining whether we will be able to tackle two of the biggest challenges of our time: making poverty history and stopping global warming.
Many of us who are privileged enough to have reliable access to energy probably don’t often think about what our lives would be like without it. If we didn’t have modern stoves, how would we cook? If we didn’t have fridges, how would we store food? If we didn’t have proper lighting, how would our children do their homework in the evening?
Lack of energy deprives you of so many things that are essential to a life in dignity and prosperity. And for billions of people, that lack is a reality today. But I believe we are at a moment in time which heralds a better future, one in which no one will be deprived of reliable, modern energy.
I’d like to tell you about one of the things that has truly moved me and given me hope recently. Last autumn, I travelled in rural Bangladesh. And what I saw in so many villages was that there is electricity for only a few hours a day, often erratically. So people dwell by the light of kerosene lamps, inhaling the dirty smoke. They use noisy diesel generators, which emit noxious particles. They live lives of energy poverty.
But what I also saw, on rooftop after rooftop, were solar panels. Some of them were installed through Swedish development aid, but many other countries and actors have done important work as well. And what is now happening is quite fantastic – people’s lives are being transformed:
Children are able to do their schoolwork without straining their eyes. And they can study longer hours when they don’t have to rely on an expensive fuel like kerosene. People don’t have to wake up with sooty, blackened faces and a pain in their chest. They don’t have to fear that their houses will burn down if they forget to put out the light. (In poor countries, burns are the main cause of childhood injuries or deaths, roughly half of which are caused by kerosene lamps.) And families are relieved of a huge burden when they don’t have to spend a large part of their slim budget on fuel.
In essence: solar energy makes life better, it makes it healthier, and it makes it sustainable.
This is why one of my priorities as Minister for International Development Cooperation is sustainable energy. If there’s one thing I hope we can all agree on, it is that clean, affordable energy is the key with which we can unlock a sustainable future.
Making the shift to a 100 per cent renewable global energy system should be the priority of every government, every corporation and every community. We are all responsible, and we are all part of the solution. Developed countries have a special responsibility to transit quickly to clean energy systems and at the same time to support developing countries to leap-frog directly to renewables.
I often hear people say that this is a task that requires global action on a scale and at a pace we’ve never seen before. They say we won’t be able to make it happen fast enough to avert dangerous climate change.
But when I look at what’s happening across the world, I start to believe. What we’re seeing is a revolution in clean energy that is already under way. Investment is booming, prices are going down, the market is moving in ways unimaginable only a few years back, and countless communities and individuals are joining the revolution. Even today, renewables can often match the cost of non-renewables. The cost of installing solar panels has gone down some 70 per cent in just six years’ time, to mention only one telling fact.
But all of this will not move forward by itself. All of us – governments, businesses and individuals – need to push for it. So before I finish, let me tell you briefly what the Swedish Government is doing in my field, international development:
-We have joined the Power Africa project, committed to catalysing investment in renewables of up to USD 1 billion for Power Africa over a ten-year period, through grants, loans and guarantees.
-We have pledged some USD 580 million to the Green Climate Fund, making us the biggest donor per capita in the world.
-We are a major contributor to many multilateral initiatives and funds, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and SE4All, which are spurring action in the field of energy and climate change.
-We are pushing for fossil fuel subsidies to be phased out.
-We are streamlining climate change policy in all our development programmes.
Making the world safe from the danger of climate change and expanding access to modern, sustainable energy in developing countries – these are two of our biggest challenges and responsibilities.
Not all the solutions needed to address these challenges are available yet, and those that are may not be apparent. Figuring out these solutions and aligning them across scales will require more effort. Yet the task is achievable if we have enough of a vision, if we can work together, and if we offer ourselves the right incentives.
Someone once said that “the impossible will take a little while”. What we are seeing in the field of energy across the world – in the poor villages of Bangladesh and elsewhere – is that we are making it come true.