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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Vienna Energy Forum (VEF) 2017 Conference: “Sustainable energy for the implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement” convened 9-12 May 2017.


The VEF is a biennial, global multi-stakeholder forum, launched in 2008 to explore development challenges from the perspective of sustainable energy – and to debate solutions to those challenges. It is a joint initiative of the Austrian Government, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IASA) based in Laxenburg, Austria, and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) , as well based in Vienna.


[This year’s meeting overlapped The Bonn Climate Change Conference, organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, May 8-18, 2017 – a technical meeting dealing with areas like the Green house effects, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, green urban environments, Clean Energy … Nature’s Role. Obviously, this time conflict might have taken away some of the coverage of the Vienna event.]

VEF 2017 is intended to contribute to the practicalities in successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Paris Agreement. Among other things, it discussed the importance of the linkages between climate and development, and examined the role of innovation in achieving SDG 7 – “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” and related SDGs.

The Forum featured side events held on the UN Grounds in Vienna, from 9-10 May – followed by plenary sessions from 11-12 May.

The side events covered such topics as achieving SDG 7, sustainable energy solutions in landlocked developing countries, innovative business models to attract sustainable energy investment for least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS), capacity building, clean energy for migrants and vulnerable groups, improving energy access, technology transfer, modern cooking energy, achieving a low-carbon society, regional incubation networks, micro-grids, smart city development, energy scenarios for sub-Saharan African cities, catalyzing action on energy efficiency, global research initiatives in support of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement, and promoting women to advance the global energy transition.

The follow up plenary sessions promoted then dialogue on the nexus between energy, climate, transport, food, water and health, linkages among the key SDGs and their contribution to the 2030 Development Agenda, and the role of innovation as a global driver for sustainable growth.

In this reporting by Irith Jawetz, she goes over a few highlights of the Conference she attended at the Austrian Hofburg – the Austria Presidential quarters in Vienna.

Also here there were many plenary panels and side events which will hopefully be posted on the website at a later date.  www.viennaenergyforum.org/


The Opening ceremony of the Vienna Energy Forum 2017 took place on May 11, 2017 at the magnificent Festsaal in the Hofburg.

Here is a short summary of the presentations:

Master of Ceremonies was Ms. Ralitsa Vassileva, the news Director Bulgarian International Television, who was previously anchorwoman on CNN.

She thanked the 1,500 delegates from 100 countries and the 50 speakers who have assembled to attend this important Conference, whose main goal is to fight poverty through Sustainable Development.

The first speaker was Mr. Michael Linhart, Secretary General of the Austrian Ministry for Integration & Foreign Affairs. He mentioned that this Conference has started in Vienna in 2009 and was the first Forum leading the need for access to Sustainable Development. The latest important events were the International Conference on Sustainable Development in New York, September 2016 and the COP 21 – UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, December 2016 where the important Paris Agreement was signed. Both events, together with the current conference in Vienna will decide whether we are on the right track.

The next speaker was Ms. Maria Vassilaku, Vice Mayor of Vienna, member of the Austrian Green Party, who welcomed everybody to Vienna, the most beautiful, sustainable and liberal city. She especially mentioned that we have to tackle the question of Climate Change for our children.

Sustainable Development is defined by sustainable mobility, more public transport (Vienna has reduced the price of annual transportation ticket in order to entice people to leave their cars at home and use Public transportation).

Achieving the goals of Sustainability will only be done by involving people, industry, Governments, and private sectors.

She was followed by Mr. Li Yong, Director General of UNIDO who insisted that we must make sure the Paris Agreement is implemented in full.

Then came up Ms. Rachel Kyte, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, formerly with the World Bank in Washington DC. She was the most passionate of the speakers. She mentioned that 1 in 7 people on our planet do not have access to energy. This is unacceptable.

We have to give everybody a chance for access to energy. We need it for schools, clinics, food, shelter, and everybody must have the right to it. She pleaded that we have to move, and to move fast, promises made should be promises kept.

{Ms Kyte served until December 2015 as World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for an ambitious agreement at the 21st Convention of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 21). She was previously World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, and was the International Finance Corporation Vice President for Business Advisory Services.]

Next came Prof. Pavel Kabat, Director General and Chief Executive Office at IIASA, International Institute for Applied Systems Analyses located in Laxenburg, Austria. He put the emphasis on research and vision. He said that one should not view Climate Change as a threat but as a new start, energy is a necessity and not a goal and sustainability will only be achieved when there is a partnership of private and public sector.

The Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Ms. Chtistine Stix-Hackl read an official statement from the Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who welcomed all participants to the Conference in Vienna, which has become a hub for Energy. The President stressed the importance of implementing the Paris Agreement and making sure that the goals set in that agreement will be met .

Andrä Ruprechter, Austrian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment & Water Management also mentioned the two conferences in 2016 in New York and Paris and said that we can and will clear the pathway to a clean energy future for all. He was looking forward to the next Climate Change Conference in November 6-17, 2017, in Bonn, Germany. Climate Change is a Global problem and needs Global solutions. He vowed that Austria will stick with the Paris agreement.

Mr. Piyush Goyal, Minister of State with independent Charge for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines in the Government of India was also very passionate in his speech. The world is changing since Thomas Edison discovered the light bulb and it is for us now, and not later, to do something in order to save the world. India is committed to the Paris Agreement even if other World leaders are not (this was the first time the audience clapped during a speech). Prime Minster Modi is a conservationist of Energy and under his leadership India has promoted energy efficiency for the last years and has reduced the use of electricity by a lot by using only energy saving light bulbs. He hopes that by 2019 every lights bulb will be replaced.


Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United nations and former Minister of Environment of Nigeria, also stressed that we must address Climate Change since it is a scientific fact, in spite of recent talks to the contrary
(this remark caused more clapping from the audience). The Paris Agreement has to be implemented in full in order to fight Climate Change and more important poverty. It is unacceptable that 1 in 7 people on the planet have no access to electricity.

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The second day started with the Ministerial segment moderated by Ms. Tania Rödiger-Vorwerk, Deputy Director General, Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation & Development (BMZ), Germany. Let us remember that upcoming COP 23 of the UNFCCC will be held in Bonn, Germany, this November 6-17.

The keynote speaker was the very passionate and eloquent Prime Minister of Tuvalu, H.E. Enele Sopoaga. Being the Head of one of the endangered islands, he stressed the importance of regarding Climate Change as a real danger. He expressed solidarity with the Paris Agreement and stressed the importance of action to combat Climate Change. Survival is at stake, Governments & Private sectors of all countries have to work together to make sure the use of Renewable sources is increased. Tuvalu has numerous programs in that direction and hopes to achieve 100% use of Renewable sources of energy by the year 2020. Tuvalu is fully committed to explore Renewable energy from oceans but needs help in technology. 10,000 people in very small islands which are part of Tuvalu have already 100% electricity, but a lot still has to be done. He called upon all countries not to listen to diversion from the problems of Climate Change but “keep everybody on the boat & canoe”. Every country has to be on board and support the goals of developing Sustainable energy for all at all costs.

His speech caused a round of applause from all participants.

The other Ministers on the Podium were H.E. Ms. Jabulile Mashwama, Minister of Natural Resources & Energy of Swaziland who also stressed that Renewable agenda comes at a high cost, it’s coming slowly, but it has to happen.

H.E. Mr. Khaled Fahmy, Minister, Egypt Environmental affairs Agency, also supported in full the Paris Agreement, this is a Global agreement and all countries have to respect and adapt it. Egypt hopes to achieve 20% of renewable energy by 2020 which comes mainly from solar and wind. In order to implement this goal, the private sector must be involved, especially in order to bear the costs. This is a critical issue and the pace is too slow.

H.E. Mr. Aziz Rebbah, Minister of Energy, Mines & Sustainable Development from Morocco, home of the COP 22 of the UNFCCC in 2016, strives to achieve 52% of renewable energy by 2030 which will come mainly from solar power.

A very moving side event which Ms. Jawetz attended, and would like to share, was the “Networking Event: Women for Sustainable Energy”. This networking event connects people and provides a platform for knowledge sharing and exchange. It raises awareness on the potential of sustainable energy for women’s empowerment, and featured short presentations by women leaders in the energy sector. It provided insights into a broad range of career paths and initiatives that target women’s empowerment in the clean energy sector. This event was meant to promote sustainable energy approaches that have strong impact on gender equality and highlighted the major role of women in making the energy sector more sustainable. The event was hosted by UNIDO and supported by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Center for Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), the Global Women’s Network for Energy Transition (GWNET) and the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA).


Before the closing session started we heard a short speech by Mr. Kandeh Yumkella, who is now a Sierra Leonean Agricultural economist and politician, and was, for many years, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, first as head of UN Energy and then for Sustainable Energy for All during the years 2009-2016. He was instrumental in organizing all the past Vienna Energy Forum events. He thanked everybody for inviting him this time as a guest and participant, and stressed time and again that “Energy for All” is the key for everything, and one has to take the fight from Vienna to New York and spread the word.

The closing remarks were carried out by Mr. Philippe Scholtes, Managing Director, Programme Development and Technical Cooperation Division (PTC), UNIDO.

He thanked all the organizers for the successful event and counted 10 key massages:

1) Role of Energy in 2030 – urgency agenda for sustainable development;

2) Urgency in developing energy for food, security, land, water & health nexus;

3) Developing sustainable cities and urban communities, the need for use of sustainable energy for infrastructure;

4) Need to adapt to Climate Change by using clean energy;

5) Pioneering role of innovative technologies are a central piece of sustainable energy;

6) Financing innovative business models. Sustainable solutions depend on innovative businesses;

7) Catalysts for innovation – Governments needs to stimulate innovation and develop energy system support research & development;

8)Innovation for Appropriate & Sustainable solutions, planning frugal, flexible & inclusive energy systems;

9) Energy is ca crucial component for implementing of the 2029 agenda;

10) Businesses & Private sector must be included in implementing the Paris agreement.


All in All a very successful Conference, but the work is not done yet. To quote Ms. Rachel Kyte: “Promises made should be promises kept!”

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