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Energy efficiency – the fuel for sustainable development

“Increasing the uptake of energy efficiency has never been more urgent than today. If the multiple benefits of energy efficiency were known more widely, surely related measures would be implemented better and faster.” This was the strong message on the critical importance of energy efficiency to achieve the sustainable development goals sent by UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach to about 300 government and private sector representatives attending the annual conference of the major German business association working on promoting energy efficiency (DENEFF).  “Energy efficiency investments across the countries of the OECD have avoided more than USD 5.7 trillion of energy expenditure and a cumulative 10.2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions since 1990”, he said.   Dr. Barbara Hendricks, Federal Minister for Building and Environment of Germany also spoke at the event, introducing a climate protection roadmap to 2050 based on increased renewable energy and energy efficiency measures and exiting fossil fuels.

Participants of the conference discussed the impact of innovation and future possible energy systems on their business models and showed a particular interest in the Eastern neighbourhood region for collaboration and market expansion. Christian Friis Bach’s messages resonated with the audience in particular on the role of energy efficiency to reach the 2°C climate goal agreed in Paris in December 2015. 40% of the emission reductions must come from energy efficiency by 2050. The German industry believes it has the technology but needs more flexible and adapted policies. To move forward a better voice on energy efficiency globally is needed and a different way to address the necessity for a well-educated work force. Christian Friis Bach further stressed the importance of government and business working together to achieve such ambitious goals. “Germany’s leadership in implementing energy efficiency technologies and policies could serve as an example in other parts of the region”, he stressed, referring to the recent UNECE publication Best Policy Practices for Promoting Energy Efficiency. “Energy efficiency must become the ‘first fuel’ not only on paper but in practice. The report proposes a series of best practice policies as part of a framework approach. Standards, regulations, and guidelines will all be important, so the recently created joint UNECE Task Force between the Committees on Sustainable Energy and on Housing and Land Management on energy efficiency standards in buildings will have an important role to play in this context.”

While in Berlin Christian Friis Bach also had meetings with a number of high-level Government officials from Germany:   Dr. Barbara Hendricks, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety;   Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Dr. Martin Schöpe, Head of Division, International and European Affairs of Energy, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy; and  Ulrich Benterbusch, Second Deputy Minister for Energy Efficiency, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Chair of the UNECE Group of Experts on Renewable Energy.