Director-General  QU Dongyu

Sustainable energy is vital to lifting people out of poverty and hunger, FAO Director-General tells UN-Energy meeting


Rome – United Nations agencies and their partners should work closer together to make agrifood production more sustainable and energy-efficient, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General QU Dongyu told a UN energy meeting today.

Investing in clean, affordable and sustainable energy solutions plays a crucial role in ending poverty and hunger. It can also spur innovation, generate millions of green jobs and help create a just, equitable, net-zero emissions future that leaves no one behind. For the 759 million people in the world who lack access to electricity and the 2.6 billion without clean cooking facilities, access to clean energy solutions can also improve vital services such as healthcare and education.

Today’s UN-Energy meeting at Principals Level, which was held virtually because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, called on participants to discuss the way forward, including on the proposed UN-Energy Plan of Action Towards 2025. This envisages ambitious goals, such as access to electricity for 500 million more people, access to clean-cooking solutions for an extra 1 billion people, and a doubling of modern renewables capacity worldwide.

“The linkages between food and energy, and water and energy, cannot be disconnected,” Qu said. Noting that agrifood production is responsible for 70 percent of global water withdrawals, the Director-General called for improved access to sustainable energy, “especially for smallholder farmers.”

UN-Energy is the UN’s primary agent for promoting system-wide collaboration on energy related issues, bringing together leaders in their respective fields from all over the world.

Welcome remarks were also delivered by Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and UN-Energy Co-Chair, and Liu Zhenmin, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

Fresh momentum

Our agrifood systems consume around 30 percent of the world’s energy, so their sustainability plays a crucial role in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG7 - ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

The renewables transition has received fresh momentum from September’s High-level Dialogue on Energy and the more recent 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

In his speech, FAO’s Director-General called on participants to build on the achievements of COP26 in the lead up to COP27, which will focus more on the energy-food-water nexus.

“Strategic collaboration between UN agencies and other key partners, including the private sector and through South-South and Triangular Cooperation, is critical to foster stronger linkages between the energy, food and water sectors,” he said.

Energy already plays a major role in FAO’s programmes, including the Hand-in-Hand and Green Cities initiatives. Last year, FAO’s work on energy was strengthened through a collaboration with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), resulting in a joint report (Renewable Energy for Agri-food Systems-Towards Sustainable Development and The Paris Agreement) that was launched at the COP26 summit.

Looking ahead, FAO will continue to scale up its work on the water-energy-food nexus. FAO has been approached by UNDP to support its Africa Mini-grid Programme and by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) regarding its energy programme. In addition, FAO is in discussion with the Rockefeller Foundation to contribute to the agrifood system component of the Global Energy Alliance for People and The Planet. FAO will also participate in other major initiatives that were launched at COP26 and include an energy component, like the Global Methane Pledge, the Global Adaptation Programme and the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate