Nosh Nalavala interviews the Ambassador of Norway Geir Pederson
Nosh Nalavala: Ambassador Geir Pedersen, at the conclusion of the High-Level meeting of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) last month, Prime Minister Desalegn of Ethiopia said that energy must remain at the core of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. With 1.3 billion people without access to electricity, energy issues have always been the central theme. Why is there a call now for additional efforts towards the 2015 agenda?
Ambassador Geir Pederson: Energy is so important because it is perhaps the key if you want to solve the two really big global challenges, that is poverty and climate change. If we do energy right, we can solve both issues. If we do it wrong, we would complicate both issues. As you rightly alluded to, there are now 1.3 billion people without access to electricity and four of five in LDCs are without access to energy, so if we want to lift the poorest people out of poverty we need to address energy. We know we can do it successfully. A hundred years ago, Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe. We enabled our journey from poverty to prosperity through energy. We did it through renewable energy and hydroelectric power.
Q: What should the LDCs do to bridge this tremendous “Energy Gap”? Only 3 percent of people living in rural areas have access to cooking fuel. Is there a tangible plan to at least narrow the gap and do you think that Norway’s example can be supplanted to the LDCs, particularly in Africa?
A: Yes, there are many ways you can learn from each other. I am sure that countries can learn from the Norwegian experience, but perhaps even more important is to have an exchange of experiences from countries in the South, that you can learn from each other. What we learned are a couple of things: the important thing was to have a regulatory system that was good, that you have a transparent political system, and that you were able to take in foreign knowledge and foreign capital. We needed foreign experts, but we made sure that we learned how to do it ourselves so that we could take over and be in control of the expertise, the knowledge, the capital, and then also the development of hydropower that was such a huge success for us.
Q: For achieving the goal of providing sustainable energy for all, energy must be fully integrated into the Post-2015 Development Agenda. How will the developed countries assist in rooting it in the Agenda? Has Norway fielded any tangible initiatives?
A: First of all we are one of the strongest supporters of the Secretary-General’s (SG) initiative “Sustainable Energy for All” and then we have also launched a few others, particularly initiatives like “Energy Plus”, which is a partnership between donors and LDCs where we try to make sure there is sufficient funding based on delivering the results. Both the Sustainable Energy initiative by the SG and the Energy Plus indicate two important things. We need advocacy and we need someone to take the lead to put this in the agenda, and I think we have succeeded in doing that. And then of course is the question of policy, to get the framework right, and thirdly is the question of funding. We are contributing on all of these issues.
Q: Efforts are now being made to develop and establish a common global goal on energy as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Could you please explain what this common goal is and how it would be implemented?
A: This is a very good question. It is still in the early stages, but I think what we have seen now is that there is an agreement by many key actors that energy was the missing MDG and we can’t let that happen in the SDGs. I think there is more and more agreement on that. We know what the overall goal can be, but what we also need is to make sure this is a cross cutting target, that it actually goes into the health sector, which we believe is also crucial, and maybe also other areas where it can be an important factor in having success in fighting poverty and climate change.
Q: The three objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative includes universal energy access, increased efficiency, and renewable energy. A fourth Global Tracking Framework has been suggested. Could you please explain what that means and how it will impact at regional, national, and local levels?
A: I think we still keep the three core elements; access, renewable energy, and more efficient use of energy. That is the key of the initiative, but then we need to see that things are being implemented, and this is the monitoring mechanism that will enable us to follow up.
Q: And who will monitor it?
A: This is an initiative through the World Bank, so that would have to be further developed.
Q: Ambassador, do you foresee in the Post-2015 Development agenda, the MDGs being replaced by the SDGs?
A: I think the MDGs have been a huge success because we have already achieved the reduction of poverty, but then there are all the areas where we have not been successful.
Q: In Sub-Saharan Africa and Sahel region . . .
A: Exactly, so there is still a lot that needs to be done. We have to make sure that we accelerate the efforts onto 2015, with the MDGs and not lose the focus on what we need to do, and while we are doing that we should plan for a good transition. We take care of the MDGs, so that they are continued in the SDGs, but the important thing with the SDGs is that they are global.
Q: So when we talk about SDGs it sounds very much that the focus is on energy, environment, and climate change. Do you agree with this?
A: What you mention is correct, but it is also economic development and social development. We need to make sure that it is all these three aspects together, because without these three aspects together we won’t be able to achieve what we want, both to fight poverty and achieve climate change.
Q: There are a number of common challenges, such as increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy mix, improving efficiency and focusing on funding for energy that need to be addressed effectively. All these issues were discussed at the High-Level meeting last month. What was the outcome in terms of solutions?
A: The initiative was to make sure it is a success for the SDGs and also to be a support to the initiative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable energy for all. Here what we need is to work in the partner countries. There are 60 or 70 countries that are already lined up and working on this. We need to make sure that things are happening on the ground when it comes to policy framework, regulatory framework, and that we have the funding. The big challenge is twofold — we need public funding but we need also private funding.
Q: And who is monitoring the fund?
A: This will have to be a joint effort and this is still in the early stages and what you also have to look at is what is happening in the climate discussions, in Warsaw, Peru, and then in Paris.
Q: Is this fund different from the Climate Fund?
A: Yes, but what you need to do is mobilize business. There needs to be an interest from the business community. They have to see that this is of interest to them, like what happened in Norway more than one hundred years ago. Business came in and they understood they could make money. This served both the business community and the interest of the Norwegian people. It is this sort of synergy that we would like to see in the LDCs.
Q: Public-private partnerships are an important way to overcome practical challenges and meet financing gaps, was a suggestion made by several participating members. Are the developed countries coming forward with these partnerships and how do you see climate finance managed towards the Post-2015 Agenda? As you very well know Norway was at the forefront of fulfilling the commitment both at the Brussels Program of Action and the Istanbul Program of Action, the Scandinavian countries came through in flying colors. A lot of other countries did not. How do you see this happening?
A: I repeat the message that we have been giving all along, that we the donor community, should stand by its promises of 0.7 percent. In Norway we have reached 1 percent. We do believe 0.7 should be the minimum that all should adhere to. We were glad to see that Great Britain has now reached that. That is significant and important and others should follow the lead of the Nordic countries and Great Britain in this. At the same time we need to make sure that we move away not only from the focus on ODA. ODA is important, but its annual prospect is $130 billion. We need that to fight climate change, we need climate finance and we have already agreed to a hundred billion annually, and that process has just started.
Q: Towards . . .?
A: Towards 2020 we should be able to do that towards climate finance. We also need a private-public partnership. We need private financing, we need public, and that goes also for sustainable energy for all. We need to make sure that this is key if we are to be successful.
Q: I understand that Norway has been a big supporter of training in Africa. What is your feeling towards a training program like that at the UN?
A: Training is the key to be able to move forward. Knowledge is such an important element in all of the things we are doing.
Q: Can you talk about Norway’s training program in Africa?
A: We have had for many decades a program of training in different fields. It may be fisheries, it may be agriculture, it could be energy. This has been done in partnership with African countries. It is one thing that we are proud of.
Q: That is wonderful.
A: I should mention our initiative on deforestation. At the conference in Bali we took the initiative and said that deforestation is such an important part of emissions and it is something where you could actually make a huge difference. We started a program where we said that we were willing to fund, especially with Brazil and now in Indonesia and a few other places.
Q: And pay for it . . .
A: What we said is that if they can prove that there is a reduction in deforestation, then we will help pay for that. This has been a rather successful program and we are now spending approximately one billion U.S dollars annually on this.
Interview first appeared in the UN publication THE COMMITMENT