Accelerating Energy Efficiency: From Commitment to Action

By Ligia Noronha, Director, Division of Technology Industry and Economics, United Nations Environment Programme

May 25, 2016

2015 was a milestone year for the global transition towards sustainable development. Not only was there a global agreement on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but there was also the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

The SDG agreement means that for the first time there is a universal goal for energy development, namely the SDG Goal 7, focusing on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. SDG Goal 7 directly reflects all three objectives of the Sustainable for All (SE4All) initiative relating to energy access, renewable energy and energy efficiency. While the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) did not have an explicit energy focus, the role played by energy services in achieving MDGs is acknowledged in the agreement. Similarly, achieving most of the 17 SDGs will be dependent on access to adequate energy services.

Sustainable energy development is similarly at the core of the Paris Agreement, wherein countries decided to limit future temperature increase to well below 2 degree C by the end of the century. The foundation of the Paris Agreement is the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), in which countries define their contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts. Almost all INDCs list the energy sector as a main action area and many highlight specific efforts related to renewable energy and energy efficiency. In addition, the COP 21 Lima-Paris Action Agenda showcased a large number of initiatives that could help achieve the goals of the submitted INDCs.
With these global agreements in place, now is the time to focus on the rapid implementation of INDCs and to ensure that their actions are truly in line with the overall objective of staying below 2 degrees C.

Established in 2011, SE4All is an Initiative of the UN Secretary-General, with the mandate of developing a vision for sustainable energy that balances poverty and climate challenges. Over the years, SE4All has developed into an essential element in the global response to energy sector challenges. Since SE4All was launched, we have witnessed an increased prominence of energy efficiency in cities’ and countries’ Action Plans, as well as in more than 150 INDCs.

UNEP would like to welcome the new Chief Executive Officer of SE4All, Ms. Rachel Kyte, who is taking on the exciting challenge of steering the global transition towards accelerating energy efficiency action, spearheading renewable energy deployment and bringing modern energy services to all.

UNEP’s commitment to energy efficiency is very strong, as highlighted by the fact that our Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency is also SE4All’s Energy Efficiency Hub. Of our seven organisation-wide thematic priorities, energy efficiency is a key component in two them, namely Climate Change and Increasing Resource Efficiency.

Energy efficiency has been a long-term strategic priority for UNEP for many years. In fact, UNEP is currently leading or supporting several major global energy efficiency initiatives and projects that support country activities relating to buildings, lighting and appliances, and district energy, as well as transport and finance.

Many of these initiatives are now integrated into SE4All’s Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform, and four of the platform’s accelerators are co-led by UNEP. The Lighting Accelerator and the Appliances and Equipment Accelerator are providing technical and policy support to 20 countries so they can establish minimum energy performance standards, policies, monitoring, verification and enforcement and environmentally sound life-cycle management.

The District Energy Accelerator provides capacity building, project development, planning and policy support to countries and cities so they can improve energy efficiency through modern district heating and cooling systems.
The Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Accelerator is focused on country commitments to fuel efficiency goals and targets, and offers in-country policy support, research and global outreach.

In total, by means of the above-mentioned accelerators, UNEP is providing direct support to 92 countries and 31 cities, and more than 100 other cities have expressed a willingness to engage.

With global political agreements providing long-term policy directions and targets, the foundation for successful global energy efficiency action has never been more solid. It is up to all of us to accelerate action through the established partnerships and deliver the necessary results.