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UN ESCAP: Sustainable energy key to building back better from COVID-19

The Asia-Pacific region’s move towards a sustainable, low-carbon energy future is now more critical than ever as it builds back better together from the COVID-19 pandemic, high-level delegates stressed today at the opening of the Third Session of the Committee on Energy, convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Delegates are gathered online this week from 24 to 26 February to review the region’s progress on energy priorities for the region, including ensuring universal access to modern energy and accelerating the uptake of renewables and energy efficiency in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The pandemic has increased focus on resilience and how societies and critical sectors such as energy supply can enhance their capacity to weather shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is the region’s energy systems have continued to function throughout the pandemic. The new Regional Trends Report 2021 Shaping a sustainable energy future in Asia and the Pacific: A greener, more resilient and inclusive energy system, released by ESCAP today shows the energy demand reductions have mainly affected fossil fuels and depressed oil and gas prices. Renewable energy development in countries across the region, such as China and India, has continued at a healthy pace throughout 2020. “The past year has been a testing and transformative time for the Asia-Pacific region,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana in her opening remarks at the Committee.
“As we work together to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, ESCAP has been using its platform to support our members to respond to the long-term challenge of building back better,” said Alisjahbana. “Energy is essential not just for hospitals and healthcare but to support the systems and coping mechanisms we rely on to work remotely, continue education, and to communicate essential health information to citizens. Accelerating progress on Sustainable Development Goal 7 on energy offers an opportunity to assist countries in the region to recover from the pandemic towards a cleaner and low carbon future.”
In his remarks, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy of Thailand Mr. Kulit Somatsiri highlighted that urgent action is needed to ensure sustainable energy development and economic recovery measures as part of the COVID-19 response. “The energy needs in the Asia-Pacific region are growing faster than anywhere else in the world. While we need to meet increased demand, secure energy supplies, and ensure that the energy system is sustainable, affordable, and low carbon, at the same time, we all need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ situation,” he said. “This requires close collaboration and coordination among members in which ESCAP will play an important role to facilitate this transition process thoroughly and systematically.”
The newly elected Chair of the Committee, Hon. Jone Usamate, Minister for Infrastructure and Meteorological Services, Government of Fiji, underscored the importance of the deliberations and highlighted the need to ensure that the session generates concrete decisions that shape the future of energy transitions in the Asia-Pacific region.
This year, the Committee is expected to endorse decisions to enhance cross-border power grid connectivity and continue supporting countries to develop policy frameworks to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7. The Committee will also finalize the terms of reference of expert working groups established by the Commission to undertake analysis on energy connectivity and achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7.

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