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Vienna Energy Forum 2018: Partnerships and innovation key to increasing global energy access

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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.”

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New Satellite Data Reveals Progress: Global Gas Flaring Declined in 2017

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New satellite data released today shows a significant decline in gas flaring at oil production sites around the world in 2017, despite a half-percent increase in global oil production. The nearly 5 percent flaring decline begins to reverse years of increases in global gas flaring that started in 2010.

The data reveals about 141 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas was flared in 2017, down from nearly 148 bcm in 2016. While Russia remains the world’s largest gas flaring country, it also saw the largest decline in flaring last year. Venezuela and Mexico also reduced their flaring significantly in 2017. In Iran and Libya there were notable increases in gas flaring.

The data was released by the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), a World Bank-managed organization comprised of governments, oil companies, and international institutions working to reduce gas flaring. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and GGFR have developed the flaring estimates in cooperation with the University of Colorado, based on observations from advanced sensors in a satellite launched in 2012.

Gas flaring – the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction – takes place because of technical, regulatory, and/or economic constraints. It causes more than 350 million tons of CO2 emissions every year, with serious harmful impacts from un-combusted methane and black carbon emissions. Gas flaring is also a substantial waste of energy resources the world can ill afford.

“The latest global gas flaring data is encouraging, but we will have to wait a few more years to know whether it represents a much-needed turning point,” said Riccardo Puliti, the World Bank’s Senior Director and head of its Energy & Extractives Global Practice. “Ending routine gas flaring is a key component of our climate change mitigation agenda, and the global flaring reduction Initiative we launched just three years ago now has 77 endorsers, covering about 60 percent of the total gas flared around the world.”

In 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and 25 initial endorsers launched the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative that commits endorsers to not routinely flare gas in new oil field developments and to seek solutions to end routine flaring at existing oil production sites as soon as possible and no later than 2030. It has now been endorsed by 27 governments, 35 oil companies, and 15 development institutions.

“The Initiative is an essential tool for ending routine flaring,” said Bjorn Hamso, GGFR’s Program Manager. “Going forward, it is paramount that oil field operators continue to address ongoing “legacy” flaring, and that new business models are developed that will enable more investors to participate in flaring reduction projects.”

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World Tourism Day Places Focus on Innovation & Digital Transformation

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The importance of digital technologies in tourism, providing opportunities for innovation and preparing the sector for the future of work, is at the centre of World Tourism Day 2018, to be celebrated in Budapest, Hungary (27 September 2018).

World Tourism Day, celebrated every 27 September around the world, is a unique opportunity to raise awareness on tourism’s actual and potential contribution to sustainable development.

This year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) will help to put the opportunities provided to tourism, by technological advances including big data, artificial intelligence and digital platforms, on the map of sustainable development. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sees digital advances and innovation as part of the solution to the challenge of marrying continued growth with a more sustainable and responsible tourism sector.

“Harnessing innovation and digital advances provides tourism with opportunities to improve inclusiveness, local community empowerment and efficient resource management, amongst other objectives within the wider sustainable development agenda”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The WTD official celebration will be held in Budapest, Hungary, a country enjoying steady growth of tourism backed by consistent policy support and a commitment to the digital future. Other celebrations will take place worldwide.

The official celebration will also see the announcement of the semi-finalists of the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition, launched by UNWTO and Globalia to give visibility to startups with innovative ideas capable of revolutionizing the way we travel and enjoy tourism.

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EU and China step up cooperation on climate change and clean energy

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At the China-EU Summit on 16 July in Beijing, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Council, Donald Tusk, and the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang adopted a “Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy”. Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and the Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on emissions trading between China and the EU.

In the Leaders’ Statement, China and the EU underline the need to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC process, and to get the Paris Agreement Work Programme – the rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement – adopted at the next global climate conference in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

The Statement shows how the EU and China will intensify their political, technical, economic and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy to drive forward a world-wide transformation to a thriving low carbon and climate-resilient economy and society and clean energy system. It clearly shows their commitment to climate action and achieving a clean energy transition are urgent imperatives.

In the Memorandum of Understanding China and the EU acknowledge emissions trading as a cost-effective policy tool with significant potential to contribute to a low-carbon economy and the necessary innovation and deployment of low carbon technologies.

Welcoming this commitment, President Juncker said: We have underlined our joint, strong determination to fight climate change and demonstrate global leadership. It shows our commitment to multilateralism and recognises that climate change is a global challenge affecting all countries on earth. There is no time for us to sit back and watch passively. Now is the time for decisive action.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: Further developing cooperation between the two largest emission trading systems of the world is not only in our mutual interest but also necessary to tackle common challenges in the mid- and longer term. The newly established policy dialogue will be instrumental in this context.

The Memorandum of Understanding on EU-China cooperation on emissions trading establishes a policy dialogue, foresees the joint organisation of seminars and workshops, as well as joint research activities.

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