February: Global SDG 7 Conference at the United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand

At the beginning of February I found out that I had been chosen as one of 5 Finalists for the NSW Young Woman of the Year, for the NSW Women of the Year Awards! The catch was, I had to be present for the Awards Ceremony on International Women’s Day on March 8. This was an absolute shock! I honestly couldn’t believe that out of all the young women across the state of NSW, I had been chosen! I booked my flight back to Australia and had a jam-packed itinerary! I arrived on March 7, attend a reception held by the Governor of NSW for Women of the Year Awards on the eve of March 7. The Awards Ceremony was held on the morning of 8 March and I flew back to Bangkok on March 9 with my boyfriend! Anyway, we are in the heading of ‘February’ so I will write more about this in ‘March’.

When I received the email letting me know I had be chosen, I couldn’t tell anyone until it was announced by the Minister for Women, The Hon Tanya Davies MP. Keeping this secret from my best friends was so hard! Thankfully it was only for a short period of time. Booking my tickets to Australia was very exciting, this was an unexpected trip back home, and the best part was that I could get to spend a few days with my family.

During February, myself and one other Youth Advocate had been chosen to attend the Global SDG 7 Conference at the United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand. It was a 3-day conference with leaders from around the world, spanning government, private and public companies in the energy industry. It felt as though I had absorbed one whole semesters worth of work in 3 days. I met some incredible people who are doing amazing things with energy, that benefit many people around the world. I made a short vlog about my experience, you find that here.

On the first day of the conference, one of the side-events that I attended was ‘Some Global, Regional and National Perspectives’. The Former Chief of UNDESA spoke about the retrospective and prospective views surrounding SDG 7. Some points which I found intriguing was:

  • energy is a means rather than an end;
  • energy is a major enabler of sustainable development and indispensable for eradicating poverty;
  • energy allows countries to accelerate economic grown; and
  • energy was initially not considered in the millennium goals.

I attended a session on ‘Interlinkages Between Gender Equality & Energy for Sustainable Development’. I found one speaker present that we must not assume that a group of select people can understand the worlds needs with energy. We need to understand the services that people need with regard to energy and that should be the communal starting point for services and organisations that deal with energy. Also, In the past 50 years 6 million jobs have been created in the energy sector, and there is a challenge to get women involved with this industry.

The second day the Minister of Energy of the Royal Thai Government presented an opening address. The Minister stated that we need to consider how policies surrounding SDG 7 will fit into the economic and policy of the government. In Thailand, the National Committee on Sustainable Development incorporated SDGs as core component as national, economic and social plan. He also stated that the Ministry will be submitting new legislation that will require all large building to adhere to max consumption unit per area, envision energy system where every household will be able to produce energy at a reasonable price. It was made clear that achieving SDGs requires collective efforts and full contribution from all stakeholders – inclusive of govt sector, civil society and the community. He was confident that the shared goals for the region for the 2030 Agenda will be reached.

There were some shocking statistics shared about the lack of energy available around the world. Each year around 6.5 million premature death occurs due to indoor pollution. Each year 800 women die every day due to childbirth, there is no sufficient lighting for doctors to assist these women. In some cases emergency surgery is conducted with candlelight. It also takes 2 to 8 hours every day to light inefficient stoves and the women working behind these stoves develop health issues due to the unclean cooking fuels.

In a later session a Panelist gave a remark: ‘this region is home to 85 of the most polluted cities in the world – air pollution. There is a broad need to power clean energy. Disruptive change is required to the way we consumer and generate energy. As far a generation energy is concerned SDG 7 in unequivocal, share of renewables must increase significantly. Growing demand of energy makes this a challenge in Asia and the Pacific.’ I have been living in Bangkok for nearly 6 months and I actively limit my time outdoors. The heat is like none other, it is ‘sticky’ due to the pollution.

On the final day of the conference the International Energy Agency stated that even thought from 2000 to 2016 1.2 billion people gained access to energy, there are still 1.1 billon who do not have access to energy. Most of the progress has been realised in Asia and half a billion people gained access to energy in India. We need the progress to be even, it is currently even due to countries who do not place policy considerations on electrification. The main enabler of any progress is new technology. In India 12% have access to solar LED programs at low cost financing.

During the conference I felt quite humbled that I call Australia home and that I have access to electricity. In Bangkok I live in a gated community, but around the corner there are slums. If the 2030 Agenda is going to be realised, it requires all actors in society to do their part, the world cannot afford inaction.

Until next time,

Andy

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