Participants at the Vienna Energy Forum 2018 Special Session (VEF2018) are focusing on the importance of energy system transformation, innovative climate technology, and partnerships for increasing access to energy around the world.
VEF2018 is organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in partnership with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), and in collaboration with Austria’s Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL).
Liu Zhenmin, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted: “This year’s review of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) presents a critical occasion for taking stock, strengthening our energy-related commitments and redoubling our efforts to meet SDG7 targets. Outcomes of this year’s VEF will inform the HLPF’s review of SDG7 on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
IIASA Deputy Director General Nebojsa Nakicenovic said: “The SDGs provide an aspirational vision for betterment of humanity without leaving anyone behind. The VEF was instrumental in defining the three targets of SDG7 on energy. While SDG7 is central to sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda is holistic and integrative. Science, technology and innovation roadmaps for SDG7 and other SDGs will be essential for rendering the 2030 Agenda into actionable initiatives. I look forward to VEF2018 providing a unique setting for reaching energy goals and a sustainable future for all.”
A series of plenary and round table discussions are highlighting the opportunities and challenges for developing countries, including the emerging global energy system driven by technological innovation and new policy priorities, and the vast market potential of clean technology as an industry and as a solution for making industrialization sustainable. One cross-cutting theme has been the need for partnerships in order to remove existing barriers to renewable energy and energy efficiency investments and markets.
Robert Zeiner, ADA Director of International Programmes and Projects, pointed out that the recently released Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report shows that, despite progress in certain areas, the world is not on track to meet SDG7 by 2030. He said: “This shows an urgent need for action at an increased scale and speed. Innovative partnerships and approaches are essential accelerators to set us back on track, but they also require a good structure and framework. We are convinced that the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centres offers these benefits, and can make a substantial contribution towards achieving affordable and clean energy for all.”
More than 300 participants are attending the Forum, including government ministers, representatives from the UN, other international organizations, the private sector and academia, as well as energy experts.
Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said: “I am delighted that this Forum has firmly established itself in Vienna, thereby creating a mutually beneficial partnership between the Forum and the city. While the Forum gains momentum from Vienna’s international background and status as energy hub, the city in turn attracts attention through the Forum as a place where sustainability and green living matter, emphasizing its role as a centre of worldwide energy dialogue.”
The VEF2018 will also contribute to the Austrian World Summit, with two panels, one presenting the key outcomes of the first day’s discussions, and the second on the role of technology innovation and entrepreneurship for empowering women and youth.
Rachel Kyte, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and CEO of SEforALL, said: “We need urgent action. Technology plays a key role married with policy and finance. The case for investing and fast-tracking energy access has never been stronger. Governments with large access gaps which prioritize integrated planning emphasizing both grid- and decentralized solutions are beginning to achieve speed and scale. Others should follow suit.”
EU and Qatar sign landmark aviation agreement
The European Union and the State of Qatar today signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, upgrading rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU. The agreement sets a new global benchmark by committing both sides to fair competition, and by including social and environmental protection. The signing means new opportunities for consumers, airlines and airports in Qatar and the EU.
Qatar is an increasingly important aviation partner for the EU. It was the 15th largest extra-EU market in 2019 with 6.3 million passengers travelling between the EU and Qatar. Ensuring open and fair competition for air services between both is therefore crucial, also for routes between the EU and Asia.
Adina Vălean, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “This agreement, the first one between the EU and the Gulf region, is a global benchmark for forward-looking aviation agreements. It is testimony to our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation, based on a modern framework covering fair competition and closer cooperation on social and environmental matters. This agreement will bring new opportunities, more choice and higher standards for passengers, industry and aviation workers.”
Today’s agreement creates a level playing field that is expected to result in new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:
- All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to Qatar and vice versa for Qatari airlines.
- EU airports in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands will be subject to a gradual build-up of capacity until 2024. For more details on this, see the Q&A.
- Strong provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.
- The parties recognised the importance of social matters, agreed to cooperate on these and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies as per their international commitments.
The agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade. Going beyond traffic rights, the EU-Qatar agreement will provide a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on a wide range of aviation issues.
Qatar is a close aviation partner for the European Union; more than 6 million passengers travelled between the EU and Qatar per year under the existing 26 bilateral air transport agreements with EU Member States prior to the pandemic. While direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by those bilateral agreements, none of them include provisions on fair competition, or social and environmental issues, which the Commission considers essential for a modern aviation agreement.
In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with Qatar, which started on 4 March 2019. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the parties before formally entering into force, it will start being applied from today’s signature.
Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel and Ukraine. Further air transport agreements with Armenia and Tunisia are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.
Sakharov Prize 2021: the finalists
The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei Navalny.
Meet this year’s finalists of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, who were chosen at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees on 14 October:
- Afghan women, represented by 11 human rights activists
- Jeanine Áñez, Bolivian politician
- Alexei Navalny, Russian activist and political prisoner
Under the previous Taliban regime, women experienced forced marriage, high maternity mortality, low literacy, forced virginity tests and couldn’t travel without a man. Following the Taliban’s return to power, women are again excluded from government and education and their rights and freedoms are threatened. The women, who are nominated for their brave fight for equality and human rights, are:
- Shaharzad Akbar – chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
- Mary Akrami – head of the Afghan Women’s Network
- Zarifa Ghafari – mayor of Maidan Shar since 2018
- Palwasha Hassan – activist and the director of Afghan Women Educational Centre (AWEC)
- Freshta Karim – founder of a mobile library and an advocate for education and learning
- Sahraa Karimi – first female president of the Afghan state film company
- Metra Mehran – women empowerment and education advocate and co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Movement
- Horia Mosadiq – human and women’s rights activist
- Sima Samar – human rights advocate, former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former chair of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
- Habiba Sarabi – member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
- Anisa Shaheed – political reporter
Jeanine Áñez is a Bolivian politician who became the interim president of her country in November 2019, after alleged electoral fraud by incumbent Evo Morales. In November 2020, after free and fair elections there was a peaceful transfer of power. However, on 13 March 2021 she was arrested on charges of “terrorism, sedition and conspiracy”. Accused of plotting a coup d’état against Morales, she has been imprisoned ever since.
Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Known through his LiveJournal blog, YouTube and Twitter accounts, where he has millions of followers Navalny came to international prominence by organising demonstrations, running for office and advocating reforms against corruption in Russia, Putin and his government. In August 2020, while on a trip to Siberia, he was poisoned. He spent months recovering in Berlin, but returned to Moscow in January 2021 where he was arrested. In February he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, he went on a 23-day hunger strike in April to protest the lack of medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.
European Innovation Council announces new wave of start-up champions
The European Commission’s European Innovation Council has selected 65 innovative start-ups and SMEs to receive €363 million of funding for breakthrough innovations. Each company will receive a combination of grant financing and equity investment of up to €17 million to develop and scale up their ground-breaking innovations in healthcare, digital technologies, energy, biotechnology, space and other. This is the first batch of companies that will be funded under the fully-fledged European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “The EIC Accelerator is a unique European funding instrument of the European Innovation Council. It supports the development of top-class innovations through crowding-in private investors and offers a portfolio of services to support their scaling-up. With the European Innovation Council we aim to bring Europe to the forefront of innovation and new technologies, by investing in new solutions for the health, environmental and societal challenges we are facing.”
The companies were selected following a new two-step process, introduced under Horizon Europe. Applications are rigorously assessed by external experts and followed by an interview with a jury of experienced investors and entrepreneurs. Among the companies selected are:
- Dutch Sensius BV that developed a thermotherapy system to treat the head and neck cancer without negative side effects;
- French Alice & Bob that invented a new type of self-correcting quantum hardware to build the world’s first fault-tolerant commercial quantum computers;
- Lithuanian UAB INOVATYVI MEDICINA that developed a smart, sensory, tele-operated robotic system, which allows an endovascular procedure to be performed without exposure to harmful X-rays;
- Norwegian Bluegrove AS that introduced the most advanced salmon welfare monitoring and prediction solution to take care of fish welfare.
The 65 successful companies are established in 16 countries. The demand for equity financing through the new EIC Fund was particularly high, with 60 out of the 65 companies. This means that €227 million out of the total €363 million are expected to be in the form of investment component.
The EIC Accelerator offers start-ups and SMEs grants of up to €2.5 million combined with equity investments through the EIC Fund ranging from €0.5 to €15 million. In addition to financial support, all projects benefit from a range of Business Acceleration Services that provide access to leading expertise, corporates, investors and ecosystem actors.
The EIC was launched in March 2021 as a major novelty under the Horizon Europe programme, and following a successful pilot phase between 2018 and 2020. It has a budget of over €10 billion of which approximately €1.1 billion is available in 2021 for the EIC Accelerator. The majority is open to breakthrough innovations in any field, while €495 million is earmarked for Strategic Health and Digital technologies and Green Deal solutions.
There were two rounds of direct equity investments under the EIC Pilot earlier this year, in January and in June, with 111 highly innovative start-ups and SMEs receiving more than €500 million to scale up breakthrough innovations. Among them there were two ‘unicorn’ companies.
A new start-up friendly application process has been introduced this year, under Horizon Europe, where companies can submit their ideas at any time for an immediate fast assessment. Successful candidates are invited to prepare a full application with the help of free business coaching. The full applications are then evaluated at regular cut-off dates approximately every 3 months. Since March over 4,000 start-ups and SMEs have sent their ideas, of which 801 presented full applications to the first cut-off on 16 June 2021 and a further 1098 to the second cut-off on 6 October, which are now being assessed. The results of this second batch of EIC Accelerator companies will be announced by the end of the year and the next cut-off date is expected in the beginning of 2022.
KP’s Education Reforms – Heading Towards Right Path
The first word revealed in the holy Quran was “Iqra” which means “to read”. This first verse of Holy Quran...
EU and Qatar sign landmark aviation agreement
The European Union and the State of Qatar today signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, upgrading rules and standards for...
Sakharov Prize 2021: the finalists
The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei...
How terrible the consequences of the Cold War can be
After World War II, the conflict over superiority between the United States and the Soviet Union began. The US-led NATO...
Companies may be overlooking the riskiest cyber threats of all
A majority of companies don’t have a handle on their third-party cyber risks – risks obscured by the complexity of...
European Innovation Council announces new wave of start-up champions
The European Commission’s European Innovation Council has selected 65 innovative start-ups and SMEs to receive €363 million of funding for...
Iran unveils new negotiation strategy
While the West is pressuring Iran for a return to the Vienna nuclear talks, the top Iranian diplomat unveiled a...
Arts & Culture4 days ago
Squid Game, Style influence and Sustainable consumption
Americas4 days ago
How Trump can beat Kamala Harris in 2024
Defense4 days ago
US military presence in the Middle East: The less the better
Economy3 days ago
There Is No Business, Like Small Business: New Strategy
South Asia3 days ago
The Taliban-Afghanistan Dilemmas
Africa3 days ago
Wagner: Putin’s secret weapon on the way to Mali?
Energy4 days ago
Russian Energy Week: Is the world ready to give up hydrocarbons?
Southeast Asia3 days ago
Transforming Social Protection Delivery in the Philippines through PhilSys