BANGKOK, Thailand, February 22 (IPS) – The past year is one that few of us will forget. Although the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have unfolded unevenly in Asia and the Pacific, the region has been spared many of the worst effects seen in other parts of the world. The pandemic has reminded us that a reliable and uninterrupted energy supply is essential to manage this crisis.
In addition to ensuring that hospitals and healthcare facilities continue to operate, energy supports the systems and coping mechanisms that we rely on to work remotely, undertake distance learning, and communicate critical information about health. health. Importantly, energy will also support cold chains and logistics to ensure that billions of vaccines reach the people who need them most.
The good news is that our region’s energy systems have continued to function throughout the pandemic. A new report Shaping a Sustainable Energy Future in Asia and the Pacific: A Greener, More Resilient and Inclusive Energy System released today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) shows that reductions in energy demand have mainly impacted fossil fuels and lowered oil prices and gas. The development of renewable energies in countries in the region, such as China and India, continued at a steady pace throughout 2020.
As the Asia-Pacific region transforms its energy system towards clean, efficient and low-carbon technologies, the emergence of the pandemic raises fundamental questions. How can a transformed energy system help ensure our resilience to future crises such as COVID-19? As we recover from this pandemic, can we launch a “green recovery” that simultaneously rebuilds our economies and puts us on track to meet global climate and sustainability goals?
Clean and sustainable energy is essential for the recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic. In emphasizing the importance of the SDGs as a guiding framework for better recovery together, we must focus on two essential aspects:
First, by making significant progress in achieving the SDGs, we can address many of the systemic issues that have made societies more vulnerable to COVID-19 in the first place – health, decent work, poverty and inequality, for to name a few.
Second, by directing stimulus spending towards investments that support the achievement of the SDGs, we can build back better. If countries focus their stimulus efforts on industries of the past such as fossil fuels, we risk not creating the jobs we need or moving in the right direction to meet the global goals that are essential for generations. futures. The energy sector offers multiple opportunities to align the stimulus measures with the clean industries of the future.
Evidence shows that renewable energy and energy efficiency projects create more jobs for the same investment as fossil fuel projects. By increasing spending on clean cooking and access to electricity, we can strengthen economic activity in rural areas and put in place modern infrastructure that can make these communities more resilient and inclusive, especially for the well-being of women and children.
Additionally, investing in low-carbon infrastructure and technologies can create a basis for the more ambitious climate commitments we need to meet the Paris Agreement targets of a 2-degree global warming limit. On this note, several countries have announced carbon neutrality, demonstrating a long-term vision and a commitment to an accelerated transformation towards sustainable energy. Phasing out the use of coal from power generation portfolios by replacing it with renewables, ending fossil fuel subsidies and enforcing carbon pricing are just some of the steps we can take.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced us to change many aspects of our lives to protect ourselves and our societies. It has shown that we are more adaptive and resilient than we thought. Nonetheless, we must not waste the opportunities this crisis presents for transformative change. It must not distract us from the urgent task of making modern energy accessible to all and decarbonizing the region’s energy system through a transition to sustainable energy. Instead, it should give us a renewed sense of urgency.
We must harness the capacity of sustainable energy to rebuild our societies and economies while protecting the environment in pursuit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service