United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Mr. Liu Zhenmin Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs - Sustainable water and energy solutions as integrated response to climate change

Dear colleagues,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the side event organized by UN DESA and ITAIPU Binacional, entitled “Sustainable water and energy solutions as integrated response to climate change”.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change are our collective response to building a better future in the coming decade.

Together, they provide a transformative vision for shared prosperity, peace and partnership on a healthy planet.

But realizing that vision means that we must address climate change as a matter of utmost urgency.

The United Nations Secretary-General has reminded us at the opening of COP24 than climate change is moving faster than we are.

We face a direct existential threat. And there is a real humanitarian cost to it.

Climate change is the defining challenge faced by our generation.

Droughts, floods and extreme weather events are displacing people as never before and putting lives and livelihoods at risk.

Achieving the sustainable development goals and addressing climate change must go hand-in-hand.

Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Energy and water lie at the heart of these two interconnected agendas.

A transformative approach to energy and water is essential not only to SDG6 on water and SDG7 on energy; most importantly, such an approach can make all our Sustainable Development Goals possible.

It can reduce poverty and power innovation and industry.

It can deliver essential health services and empower women and youth.

It can address food security and mitigate climate change.

Recent trends underpin the critical importance of this transformative approach.

Energy production is responsible for 35-40 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions, while energy use in transport and industry accounts for another 35 per cent and the emission trajectory is going upward, despite efficiency gains.

A similar change exists on the water front. Water-related disasters have accounted for almost 90 per cent of the 1,000 most devasting natural disasters since 1990.

The damage caused by water-related disasters is enormous – ranging from 15 to 40 per cent of annual GDP for some small economies.

Climate change is exacerbating the problem. Higher temperatures and extreme weather conditions are projected to affect the availability and distribution of rainfall and river flows.

Integrated water resources management is therefore key for climate change mitigation, since many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also depend on reliable access to water resources.

If we commit to action on water and energy, we can meet the Paris climate goals and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

However, there is still much to do.

This past July the United Nations High Level Political Forum reviewed in-depth six SDGs, including Goal 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy and Goal 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation.

The conclusion from the HLPF review was clear: we are not on track to meet SDGs 6 and 7, because we are still not moving fast enough.

Worldwide, more than 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services.

1 billion people currently live without electricity, and

3 billion people continue to lack access to clean cooking solutions.

The same people who lack access to improved water and sanitation are also likely to lack access to electricity and rely on solid fuel for cooking.

We need water to produce and distribute energy, and we need energy to treat and deliver water to our homes.

Over the coming decades, the global demand for water and energy will continue to increase significantly.

Unless we take urgent action, this growing demand will translate into more greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change will exacerbate the already stressed energy and water scenarios.

That is why we cannot address these issues separately.

To fight these complex and interconnected challenges, integrated approaches are needed.

Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

An integrated approach to water and energy can be a powerful strategy to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

But adopting a truly integrated approach presents complex challenges and requires a different set of skills and knowledge.

This is why UN DESA and Itaipu Binational have joined efforts in a partnership entitled “Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions”.

We launched this partnership earlier this year.

But we know we cannot meet our goals by our efforts alone.

That is why, yesterday, we launched the Global Network on “Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions”, where members from all regions and constituencies are invited to join.

Today, we will hear from Itaipu Binacional and other partners’ experiences in implementing integrated water and energy solutions as a response to climate change.
Ensuring progress in achieving the SDGs and the Paris Agreement will be greatly enhanced by making sure that these lessons are shared and best practices are replicated.

Each best practice represents a reason for hope.

We are off to a good start.

But we need to do more.

Moving forward, we have a number of opportunities.

Nationally Determined Contributions can harness water and energy solutions to drive progress towards the Paris Agreement.

The first Global Conference on Synergies between the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, co-organized by UN DESA and UNFCCC in March 2019 in Denmark, provides a unique opportunity to promote integrated approaches across both agendas.

The midpoint of the Decade for Sustainable Energy for All, also taking place next year, brings a major opportunity to assess progress and identify directions in support of Goal 7.

The 2019 High-Level Political Forum offers another critical occasion for taking stock and for catalyzing ambitious action.

And, in September next year, the Secretary-General will convene a Climate Change Summit in New York to mobilize ambition, action and finance.

Let us pledge never to rest until we have achieved a world with equitable and sustainable water and energy resources for all.

Together, we can make it happen.

Thank you.