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Governments to Signal Support for IRENA Key Role in Global Energy Transformation

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More than 1,100 representatives of governments from 150 countries will meet in Abu Dhabi to attend the Eighth Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), taking place on January 13-14. As the world’s principal platform for international cooperation on renewable energy, the Assembly will provide strategic guidance to the work of the Agency for the next four years and position it to play a key role in driving the global energy transformation.

“As renewable energy costs decline, technology advances and deployment accelerates around the world, we are entering a new age of energy transformation, with renewable energy becoming a significant driver of economic growth, job creation, and socioeconomic development while also addressing climate change and reducing air pollution” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

“At the IRENA Assembly, our global membership will set the direction of the Agency in the coming years and chart a roadmap for the energy system of the future – a future that will be increasingly decarbonised, decentralised and digitalized,” he added.

Since 2013, more than USD 1 trillion has been invested in renewables globally and today the industry accounts for nearly 10 million jobs worldwide. As countries, cities and corporates drive progress towards a low-carbon energy system, the Assembly will  take stock of progress in renewables deployment, and the decarbonisation of the electricity system as well as end-use sectors such as heating, cooling and transportation.

President of the Assembly, and Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining for Uruguay, Ms. Carolina Cosse, said: “Uruguay is honored to preside over the eighth session of the Assembly of IRENA, an organisation that plays a central role in promoting renewable energy worldwide. Uruguay is proof that high shares of variable renewable energy can be successfully integrated into the energy mix.

“Just last year, 97 per cent of our electricity was generated by renewables, out of which 35 per cent came from wind, and over 60 per cent of our primary mix is renewable – mainly based on the use of biofuels,” continued Minister Cosse. “This year marks our fifth without the need to import power, as well as increasing our exports to neighbouring countries. Our next challenge is to move forward on electric transportation and I believe Uruguay is ready to be the next regional platform where this technology can be developed and implemented.”

Highlights of this year’s Assembly include:

  • Release of the Agency’s report on renewable energy power generation costs, tracking the degree to which costs competitiveness of renewable energy has entered an era of competitive advantage based on its strong business case.
  • Two high-level Ministerial Roundtables will identify concrete ways to accelerate investment in renewable energy and explore innovations and synergies between transport sector electrification and renewable energy.
  • Launch of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation which will examine how growing renewables deployment will impact geopolitical dynamics.
  • A two-day meeting of international legislators on renewable energy policy-making, including a day-long event with the UAE Federal National Council, which will discuss the role of renewables in advancing the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in addressing climate change.
  • A high-level ministerial event that will seek to improve the capacity of small island developing states to develop and finance renewable energy projects.
  • Programmatic discussions will also take place on a range of topics including renewable energy policy, geothermal energy, scaling up solar PV, bioenergy for sustainable development, and renewable energy in the context of sustainable development and implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate.
  • Finally, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and IRENA will announce the recipients of funding allocated through the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility.

IRENA will also hold a one-of-a-kind art exhibition called Visions of Sustainability. Renowned sound artist Bill Fontana will present multimedia works on renewable energy created especially for the event, and sustainability thought leader William McDonough and initiator and pilot of Solar Impulse Bertrand Piccard will share their visions for a sustainable future.

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Improved economic conditions boost air-traveller numbers worldwide

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A record 4.1 billion passengers took to the skies in 2017 onboard some 37 million scheduled flights globally, the United Nations civil aviation agency reported Thursday, highlighting that the fastest growth was seen among low-cost carriers.

According to preliminary figures released by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), air travel demand growth too gained “solid momentum” on the back of improved global economic conditions throughout the year.

The upward trend was driven by the strengthening investment in advanced economies as well as the recovery in emerging market and developing economies owing to the increased export demand,” said the UN agency.

It added that lower air fares owing to the low fuel price also continued to stimulate traffic growth, albeit at a more moderate level compared to 2016.

In terms of geographic distribution, Europe remained as the largest international market (37 per cent of the global total), recording a strong 8.1 per cent growth over the previous year. Asia-Pacific came in second with 29 per cent and growth of 9.6 per cent over 2016.

North America accounted for a 13 per cent global share, and demonstrated but notched up the slowest growth as a region (4.9 per cent over 2016).

The Latin America and the Caribbean region bagged 4 per cent of the international traffic and saw the largest improvement among all regions at 10 per cent. Africa had the smallest traffic share three per cent, grew slightly faster than last year at 7.6.

Low-cost carriers and air cargo post strong numbers

The ICAO news release also reveals that low-cost carriers consistently grew at a faster pace compared to the world average growth, carrying an estimated 1.2 billion passengers and accounting for approximately 30 per cent of the world total scheduled passengers.

At the same time, bolstered by improving global economic conditions and world trade, air cargo demonstrated a strong rebound in 2017, recording a “robust” 9.5 per cent growth, a “significant improvement” from the 3.8 registered in 2016.

ICAO also reported that in 2017, average jet fuel prices increased by about 25 per cent compared to 2016 but remained significantly lower than the prices observed for the ten years prior to 2016.

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Rohingya Crisis Growing, More Support Needed

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The Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh is growing at a rapid pace and there is an urgent need to support the host communities to cope with the influx and to help the refugees who are extremely vulnerable, the World Bank said today.

After visiting the Rohingya camps in the Cox’s Bazar area, World Bank South Asia Region Vice President Annette Dixon praised the government of Bangladesh and its people for sheltering and caring for the large influx of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar. She said the World Bank was ready to work with the government to help the host community and the displaced Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar.

“The scale of the influx is enormous. As far as the eyes can see, lines after lines of shelters—made of plastic sheets and bamboos—stretched over the deforested hills. It is creating huge pressure on the infrastructure and services as well as on the water resources and the environment. When the monsoon approaches, the challenges with disease and natural disasters will increase,” she said.

She visited the registered and makeshift camps and spoke with the Rohingya and the local community. She also visited registration centers, health and food distribution centers, children centers and women-friendly spaces. While these efforts are helping the Rohingya cope, they will need more support to rebuild their lives.

The people and the government of Bangladesh have shown great generosity to the Rohingya people in their hour of need. As soon as the crisis broke, with the government, the local and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and development partners extended support. This helped save thousands of lives,”  Dixon said. “But the needs are much greater. If the government seeks assistance, we can mobilize more resources to address the needs of both the host communities and the Rohingya people in a way that will continue to benefit the local people after the Rohingya leave.”

Dixon met local government officials and representatives of the many Bangladeshi and international relief agencies and NGOs that are working to support the Rohingya population in the Cox’s Bazar area.

Earlier in the week, Dixon spoke at the invitation of the government at the Bangladesh Development Forum in Dhaka. She praised Bangladesh’s remarkable success in reducing poverty and advancing development.

As she concluded today a five-day visit to Bangladesh, she said: “Bangladesh is an inspiration for development—it halved the number of people living in extreme poverty and created more opportunities for all. The country is at the cusp of another transformation: that of an upper middle-income country. The World Bank is committed to help Bangladesh address areas critical for achieving its vision of upper-middle income status.”

In the recent years, the World Bank support to Bangladesh has expanded. Currently, the World Bank’s support stands at nearly $10 billion, which represents a more than doubling in the last five years.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed close to $27 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country.

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Brand Africa and biodiversity focus of the 9th edition of INVESTOUR

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Nearly 30 African Tourism ministers convened at INVESTOUR to debate and exchange experiences on the development of the sector in the continent. This unique Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa is jointly organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Casa Africa and FITUR.

Two round tables and a business-to-business component integrates the 9th edition of INVESTOUR that took place in the framework of FITUR, the Tourism Fair in Madrid. The first session, moderated by Thebe Ikalafeng, Chairman at Brand Africa, addressed branding strategies to position the African continent in the travel market.

“International tourist arrivals in Africa grew by around 8% for the second consecutive year with 62 million arrivals registered for 2017. These strong results that show the potential of tourism in Africa but also the prioritization of the sector in the development agenda in the continent,” said UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“INVESTOUR has become a consolidated platform for sharing ideas and projects around the tourism sector in Africa. We started as a small summit and nine years later, nearly 30 African tourism ministers convene here to position the African continent, a topic that will occupy the debates in this year’s edition,” explained Luis Padrón, Director General of Casa Africa.

The second panel evaluated the added value of African biodiversity as a strong component of the tourism sector in the continent. Wildlife, reserves and geographic treasures make Africa unique with regard to its tourism offer. According to UNWTO research, wildlife watching travel represents 80% of the total annual tourist arrivals to Africa. However, it is mandatory to continue working on conservation and protection measures and to engage stakeholders of different nature such as governments, local communities, private sector recipients and the media.

Within that round table, the UNWTO/Chimelong Programme on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism was presented. The initiative, jointly implemented by UNWTO and the Chimelong Group, based in Guandong (China), aims at contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda through sustainable tourism and particularly wildlife conservation. The initiative comprises capacity building, advocacy and knowledge sharing methodologies and addresses multiple stakeholders such as governments, civil society and the media.

In the afternoon, tourism stakeholders gathered to discuss business opportunities in the continent. 15 inspiring projects were shared with the aim to build partnerships around tourism development in African nations.

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