Countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe are stepping up efforts for their sustainable energy transition with ambitious plans and policies, aiming to significantly cut CO2 emissions and advance implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. For example, most of the electricity in Albania is produced by hydropower, followed by thermal power, but the country aims to implement more solar and wind projects. In Belarus, renewables accounted for 7.4% of the energy mix in 2020, mostly from biofuels and waste, and the country is looking to increase this share in the coming years. Georgia has developed several pilot projects using agricultural waste to meet energy demands. Uzbekistan is also seeking to increase power generation from renewable energy sources and is aiming for a 28% reduction of GHG emissions by 2030 compared to their 1990 level. However, accrued efforts will be required across the region to deliver the changes needed.
To support this transition, UNECE organized a workshop on sustainable energy policies and practices on 30 June, with the participation of representatives from countries of the region, as well as other UN bodies. Building on the last workshop held of this kind in 2017 in Kazakhstan, this event focused on how to strengthen the capacity of countries in these regions to align with the recommendations included in their Environmental Performance Reviews (EPR), a flagship UNECE programme in place for 25 years, which also contributes to the implementation of energy-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through presentations and discussions, the countries reviewed and analysed the recommendations on energy and environment, shared their experience and common priorities, discussed tools and instruments to implement policies, and considered challenges as well as steps forward. The workshop was divided into three sessions.
The session addressed priority issues for the transition to sustainable energy, bringing together representatives of Bulgaria, Georgia, North Macedonia and Uzbekistan to share experiences and the current status of their implementation of EPR recommendations. Common areas of work concentrated on energy efficiency, with a focus on modernizing buildings capacity; renewable energies; issues related to heating and clean fuels; integrating climate change issues; as well as taxation and tariff reform while ensuring access to energy for everyone. National strategies, new legislation, and measures to meet standards featured among the tools described to implement recommendations. In addition, the participants recognized that funding and investment as well as good coordination and capacity building are priority requirements. Sustainable and resilient energy sectors are key elements to achieve broader sustainable development. Efforts must be pursued, integrating green growth, innovation and technology.
The workshop further discussed the opportunities and challenges for the development of sustainable energy policies. Since 2018, the UNECE Committee on Sustainable Energy and its subsidiary bodies have aligned their work with several SDGs, though most notably SDG 7, which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Enhancing national capacities to transition to sustainable energy is a key area of its work, including to Improve energy efficiency in buildings and promote the increase of the share of renewable energy in the energy mix. UNECE member States benefited from implemented projects, including studies, guidelines and best practices in various energy areas. These range from the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship in natural resource management to integrating energy and water resource management in South-East Europe and Central Asia. In 2019, a joint project by UNECE and UNESCAP developed draft National Sustainable Energy Action Plans (NSEAPs) for five countries with economies in transition (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan). NSEAPs are among some of the key tools to support the sustainable energy transition. For the aim of increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy mix, there has been positive progress in the policy and target landscape, for which UNECE works directly with countries to track progress and exchange experiences and good practices.
Other international organizations also demonstrated their support to countries’ sustainable energy transition. For instance, the Energy Charter, currently chaired by Azerbaijan, identified some of the key challenges and opportunities for energy efficiency in Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan, while a representative from the UNEP-DTU Partnership noted how action was taken to assist Mongolia in rehabilitating their energy infrastructure. Moreover, the Asia Pacific Energy Portal, developed by ESCAP, displays information and data for SDG 7 indicators and hundreds of other energy indicators, an imperative tool to raise awareness and to promote the implementation of monitoring activities.
Energy lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. SDG 7, with its aim to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, is key to empowering people through job creation, economic development, improved security, and more inclusive communities. Moreover, the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency are key to securing sustainable energy and greater protection from and resilience to climate change. In this critical decade ahead, efforts to achieve SDG 7 and other related SDGs must be intensified. Such efforts can be better achieved through cooperation and the sharing of good practices, and an outcome of this workshop is to cultivate discussions on the ways forward which can be shared more widely with participants’ respective organizations and countries. UNECE will continue to support and strengthen the national capacity of countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe to support them in their transition to sustainable energy.