“Why not?” - Speech by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at the Sustainable Innovation Forum

  • December 11, 2015

Dear Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Sustainable Innovation Forum and my thanks to Nik Gowing for trying to keep the day under control; to Henley Media particularly Nick Henry and Claire Poole, for organizing the event and launching the latest edition of the Climate Action report; and all of the sponsors, especially BMW for getting the UNEP delegation around Paris with clean consciences and clean energy in the BMW i3s.

Apparently I can't call them cars - the BMW website says they are in fact "Sustainable, emission-free mobility." Still, it's good to see the private sector picking up the United Nations agenda and our guide to plain English. Sorry - I jest - because when it comes to delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is the UN that is looking to the private sector. For example: today, the transport sector is responsible for a quarter of all energy related CO2 emissions and this will grow to a third by 2050 - faster than any other sector. By then there will be up to three times more cars than in 2010 and while more car-makers are gearing up and more car buyers are shifting from filling up to plugging in, according to the International Energy Agency we actually need three quarters of all new vehicle sales to be electric to keep warming below two degrees Celsius.

Ambitious? Of course. But then, why not? After all, just adopting fuel-efficient technology already on the market could save over eight billion barrels of oil a day and 50 per cent in CO2 emissions from cars and light-duty vehicles.

What's more, developing countries could actually leapfrog developed countries right into low-carbon, low-impact transport technology. China has replaced over 150 million two-stroke motor bikes with affordable electric ones: cutting air pollution and health damage, launching a fledgling green export industry and inspiring countries across Asia and Africa to follow suit. It's a great example of public policy and private sector improving planet, people and profits in one go. But, much more is needed.

Private investment in clean energy and other core sectors will continue to be absolutely essential if we are to meet our 2030 ambitions. UNEP's newly launched Emissions Gap Report shows that ambitious national targets submitted for the Paris Agreement, will still result in a 3 - 3.5°C increase in global temperature by 2100.

That gives us a big challenge, with an equally big $5-7 trillion a year price ticket and a great $1 trillion funding gap to be overcome if we are to keep global warming below 2°C. Well, I say big, but there is a global pool of $273 trillion in private capital - so all things are relative. And the good news is that some of the gap is being filled and some of the technologies accelerated by some of the great announcements we've seen here at COP from the Breakthrough Energy Coalition and Mission Innovation; by some major shifts in the financial sector to lay the transition to an inclusive green economy; and, best of all, by spending wisely, rather than just spending more.

At the turn of the century, who would have imagined that non-hydro renewables would deliver nearly 10 per cent of the energy mix - three times even the most optimistic initial predictions? Or that by last year, clean energy investments of $270 billion would fund almost half of all new power infrastructure and support over six and a half million jobs? Or that clean energy investments in developing countries would be almost double that in developing countries?

Over the next decades, some $37 trillion will be invested in energy infrastructure and projects anyway. So why not use innovative policies and financial frameworks to redirect those investments, reduce costs and expand markets for clean, renewable energy? Why not shine a light on the solar energy, which is close to grid parity in many countries with the cost of solar cells halving in just the last five years? Why not pick up the energy efficiencies highlighted by the IEA, which could boost cumulative economic output by $18 trillion - more than the total outputs of the US, Canada and Mexico combined?

Ladies and gentlemen, I won't go on, but if you want to see what sustainable innovation has to offer, take a look at the new Clean Voyage 2, which spells out the need to shift from a linear economy that extracts, consumes and discards to low-carbon and resource-efficient growth and from subsidizing fuels to accelerating clean renewable energy and improving efficiency. If we can use such innovation to deliver a healthy planet, with a healthy population that leaves nobody behind - why not?

Thank you.

See more at: http://unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=26857&ArticleID=35620&l=en#sthash.205xUTpr.dpuf 

“Why not?” - Speech by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at the Sustainable Innovation Forum