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CleanEnergy4All: International Day of Clean Energy – 26 January 2024 | Dr Amal Punchihewa | Palmerston North

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We observe various days within a year concerning some issue or an aspect. While days like Valentine’s may receive significant attention and engagement, the same is not true for other critical issues. Day of observance does not mean we need to pay attention only on that day but at least a special reminder for the action. The reason to mark International Days and weeks is to make use of dedicated occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilise political will and resources to address global problems and to celebrate and reinforce the achievements of humanity. The existence of an international day of the United Nations will function as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.

On 26 January 2024, we observed the World Clean Energy Day.

The International Day of Clean Energy on 26 January was declared by the General Assembly (resolution A/77/327) as a call to raise awareness and mobilise action for a just and inclusive transition to clean energy for the benefit of people and the planet.

Solar energy is the most abundant of all energy resources and can even be harnessed as a clean and renewable energy source. Energy lies at the core of a dual challenge; that is not to leave anyone behind and to protect the Planet. Therefore, clean energy is crucial to its solution.

The whole world is struggling to deal with the challenges presented by climate change. Clean energy plays a vital role in reducing emissions, and can also benefit communities lacking access to reliable power sources. According to the UN, there are over 675 million people live in the dark even today and four out of five individuals are in Sub-Saharan Africa (1).

The connection between clean energy, socio-economic development, and environmental sustainability is crucial in addressing issues faced by vulnerable communities not only in Sub-Saharan Africa but also worldwide.

When populations do not have access to clean energy, that impacts the reliability of power, it hinders education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Many developing nations and regions still rely heavily on fossil fuels for their daily life. The burning of fossil fuels pollutes the environment and, perpetuates their poverty.  According to the UN, if current trends continue, by 2030 one in four people will still use unsafe, unhealthy and inefficient cooking systems, such as burning wood. Although this situation has been improving, the world is not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (2) 7 (SDG7), which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

Adopting clean energy is integral to the fight against climate change. A large portion of the greenhouse gases that cover the Earth and trap the Sun’s heat are generated through energy production, by burning fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas) to generate electricity and heat.

We are experiencing frequent and intense disasters in the form of floods, heat, bush fire so on. The science is clear on how humans have made an impact on climate change. We need to limit climate change. Among many other things, we also need to end our reliance on fossil fuels and invest in alternative sources of energy that are clean, accessible, affordable, sustainable, and reliable. Renewable energy sources, which are available in abundance all around us, depending on the geography, provided by the sun, wind, water, waste, and heat from the Earth are to be used. Most of those sources are replenished by nature and emit little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air.

By using advanced technologies, we need to improve energy efficiency, that is using less energy for the same output. More efficient technologies can be used in transport, building, lighting, and appliances to save money and reduce carbon footprint or carbon pollution. This will help ensure universal access to sustainable energy for all (energy4all).

Based on UN research, coal, oil, and gas (fossil fuels) are responsible for nearly 90% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Hence, scientists emphasise the need to cut emissions by almost half by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Fossil fuels still dominate global energy production.

New Zealand generates the majority of its energy as renewable and clean energy using hydro, geothermal, wind and solar. We are improving the functioning of our coal power station in Huntly until we have reliable and adequate generation from other renewable sources.  However, we have to minimise the waste of energy by having good practices and using technology to improve efficiency in usage.

I hope everyone will play their role in this journey.

1. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/2309739_E_SDG_2023_infographics-7-7.pdf

2. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/energy/


By Dr Amal Punchihewa – Palmerston North

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