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Overcoming the gap to achieving sustainable energy

Current systems of energy provision and demand need to change significantly in order to address the so-called energy ‘trilemma’ – how to consistently provide affordable energy services, achieve security of energy supplies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy conversions to mitigate climate change. This will require substantial deployment of low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency measures, the costs and benefits of which are often highly uncertain. Since the successful multilateral meetings in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the pledges at COP21, governments around the world are becoming increasingly occupied with the question on how to deal with the challenges for a transition towards a sustainable energy system, especially since the amount of CO2 that can be emitted in a scenario that keeps global temperature rises within 2°C has been estimated at 1 trillion tons. Over half of the 2°C budget has already been “spent”, and CO2 emissions from energy production, transformation, and use are at the heart of the challenge.

Considering the fundamental role of energy in the post-2015 development agenda, UNECE’s Committee on Sustainable Energy will continue its dialogue on “Energy for Sustainable Development” at its 25th session to be held on 28-30 September 2016 in Geneva.  The agenda features a reality check on the energy transition, energy efficiency, renewable energy and fossil fuels in the context of the energy-related SDGs. The prime objective of this session is to explore how to deliver on the national commitments in support of the SDGs and to discuss potential solutions to be agreed at an Energy Ministerial meeting at the outset of the Eighth International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 11 June 2017. A range of internationally recognized experts will address the Committee on the size of the gap between the status quo and counties’ aspirations.

Dr. Volker Krey, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), will present the latest scientific data. Presenting on the Duality of Climate Science, Prof. Dr. Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, will highlight the importance of acting despite uncertainty and in the context of unpopular decisions to be made by policy makers. Future pathways towards sustainable energy are influenced by a wide range of drivers and influencing factors.  Energy systems are prime examples of complex systems, the study of which has become a fruitful area of research and application over the last 30 years. Prof. Dr. Lex Hoogduin, CEO, Global Complexity Network (GloComNet), will provide insights on how complex systems thinking and modelling could be useful in understanding energy systems and how these systems change, in order to address current and future policy challenges. Prof. Mark Howells, Energy Systems Analysis Group of the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH-dESA), will complement the discussion with insights on the cost of rapid decarbonisation in sustainable energy pathways. Further topics of the Committee session will include an in-depth discussion on the nexus of energy and environment in a green economy, featuring Graeme Maxton, Secretary General, Club of Rome, and a presentation on “disruptive energy futures” by Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute.