24 March 2014
Geneva International Model United Nations Annual Conference
Remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva
Geneva International Model United Nations Annual Conference
“Future 21st Century Challenges: Access to Energy”
Palais des Nations, Room XVII
Monday, 24 March 2014 at 10 a.m.
Secretary-Generals Mr. Stojanov and Mr. Nicaise
President Ms. Rigazio
Dear students and friends:
I would like to warmly welcome you to the Palais des Nations for the opening of your Geneva International Model United Nations (GIMUN) Annual Conference. We are happy to have you back once again for this annual tradition! We very much appreciate GIMUN’s efforts to encourage the spirit and innovation of the next generation’s leaders in international affairs. As you already know, Geneva is a hub for action on international challenges, so it is very fitting that you are here, in the heart of the UN, for your conference.
Our work in Geneva focuses on three main themes: peace, rights and well-being. I would argue that the theme you have chosen for your conference cuts across all three – the access to energy.
Let me first share some of my views on this issue, and then I look forward to having a discussion with you and answering your questions. I am particularly interested in hearing from you how you think you can play a role in addressing this particular challenge.
The numbers are truly compelling. More than 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, and 1 billion more only have intermittent access. Some 2.6 billion people rely on traditional, non-electric means for cooking and heating. Even when energy services are available, millions of poor people are unable to pay for them.
Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Jobs, security, climate change, food production or poverty - sustainable energy is essential to strengthen economies, protect ecosystems and achieve equity.
This is why access to energy and promoting sustainable energy are particular priorities of the United Nations. It is also my personal priority: before taking up my post here in Geneva I was deeply involved in new energy technologies.
To raise awareness, the UN has declared this year – 2014 – as the beginning of the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. But it’s not just raising awareness. In 2011, the UN Secretary-General launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, in partnership with the World Bank, which brings together top-level leadership from all sectors of society – governments, business and civil society.
It has three goals to achieve and has set the year 2030 as a target date for achieving them. The first is universal access to modern energy services. The second is to improve energy efficiency. We must cut energy waste. And the third is to increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. We need clean, efficient energy to combat climate change.
Let me briefly address renewable energy, as I think this is a particular area of growth and one where we need the innovation and creativity of young leaders. There is no reason why we should have to continue with “business as usual” when it comes to the production of energy. Technologies that produce energy from renewable sources and that help us to use it more efficiently have made clean energy more affordable than ever. Technologies are also being developed that promise cleaner ways of using fossil fuels.
Investing in renewable energy can create local jobs and growth, and improves energy security for countries that lack domestic fossil resources. Increasing the share of energy from renewable sources will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution, insulate countries from fuel price volatility, and improve their balance of payments. Renewable energy is also becoming increasingly cost-competitive. Hydro, geothermal and bio-energy have long been competitive where resources are good, and wind and solar are also economically attractive in many locations.
Technological advances are seeing these goals come within reach. During the last five to ten years, the renewable energy industry has seen tremendous growth, with capacity expanding, prices declining, and performance improving. At least 118 countries - half of them developing countries - have put in place some form of policy target or renewable support policy at the national level. A number of state and local governments have also done so, with increasingly notable results.
While this is encouraging, we must do more. The global population has reached 7 billion, and is rising. By 2030 we will need 35 per cent more food, 40 per cent more water and 50 per cent more energy.
Now, I have noted that the issue of water features among your discussions. There is a strong link between water and energy and therefore our policies and strategies concerning the two must be integrated and innovative. We must use water and generate electricity equitably and efficiently, so all users get a fair share – upstream and downstream and across all sectors.
We also must be aware of the needs of ecosystems, and the increasing strains being placed on them. And we must factor in the growing threat of climate change. Climate change will exacerbate water stress and scarcity in many regions. If we allow the current warming trend to continue, we will undermine all our efforts to provide universal and equitable access to both water and energy.
The next two years are critical for action on these issues for three reasons.
First, the international community has agreed to finalize a global legal climate agreement by the end of 2015. The UN Secretary-General will host a Climate Summit in New York this September for global leaders from government, business, finance, and civil society. And this is an opportunity to catalyze ambitious action on the ground and to strengthen and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal climate agreement in 2015.
Second, 2015 is the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals – the MDGs. While they have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history, 2015 is fast approaching and immense challenges remain. Through accelerated action and unrelenting efforts, the world can achieve the MDGs and generate momentum for going forward.
And linked to this, the third point: Member States are busy defining what comes after the MDGs, namely a post-2015 development agenda. It is essential to build on the MDGs, and deliver a framework that can end extreme poverty, reduce inequalities and advance sustainable development. This process is a unique opportunity to strengthen support for innovative strategies that will secure water, sanitation and sustainable energy for all.
While many efforts are being made, there is always more that we as the international community can do to advance these issues. And that is why I truly welcome your presence here at the United Nations today.
It shows your commitment to find solutions for the problems that affect us all. And I also hope that it shows your support for the United Nations and its actions. Your continued involvement – through discussion, advocacy and mobilization – is critical to our continuous progress and development. I hope you enjoy your exchanges here. We look forward to seeing you back again – maybe as colleagues one day!
Thank you very much.