2020•07•13 New York
On 10 July 2020, UNU-IAS co-organised a side event of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development that discussed the socio-economic impacts of transitioning away from fossil fuels, and the opportunities for diversification and sustainable development in Africa. It considered the impacts of COVID-19 on green transitions, and how climate change can be addressed as part of “building back better” after the pandemic. The discussion highlighted regional perspectives and drew on strategies from developed countries such as Japan.
The side event was jointly organised with the UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA), and the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
During the keynote message, Osabarima Owusu Baafi Aboagye III (Chief of Akyem Dwenase, on behalf of Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin Okyenhene – King of Akyem Abuakwa of Ghana) emphasised that access to affordable and clean energy must be prioritized, in order to further sustainable development in Africa, and as a means for poverty reduction, good health and well-being. In order to avoid “stranded” hydrocarbon resources, Africa’s policymakers must find ways to sustainably use these resources to promote industrialisation.
In a video message, H.E. Mr. Shinjiro Koizumi (Minister of the Environment, Japan) highlighted a new policy of the Government of Japan to support decarbonisation in developing countries. The policy, announced only hours earlier, tightens restrictions on the export of coal-fired power plants to developing countries. He emphasised that “Decarbonising the economy should not be seen as a cost, but rather as a means to bring social and economic gains.”
UNU-IAS Director, Professor Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi, underlined that building back better from COVID-19 must include strategies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and advance all dimensions of sustainable development. Although decarbonisation can involve costs, ambitious policies on climate change will bring new and diverse opportunities, including social and economic benefits. Prof. Yamaguchi highlighted the unique role that UNU can play by providing policymakers with evidence-based knowledge to support integrated approaches.
Dr. Zita Sebesvari (Office-in-Charge, UNU-EHS), said that opportunities from decarbonisation can be in the form of green jobs, and that transformative research and change should support sustainable actions for zero net carbon emissions. As a way forward, panelists said that the challenge of a just green transition away from the use of fossil fuels was given and that above all, decarbonisation solutions must prioritise improving the lives of people of Africa first and foremost.
Other speakers included Dr. Fatima Denton (Director, UNU-INRA), Dr James Murombedzi (Coordinator, African Climate Policy Centre, UN ECA), Dr. Minoru Takada (Team Lead, DESA), and Dr. Jean Paul Adam (Director, Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management, UN ECA).