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Remarks by President Zourabichvili at the 5th Global Energy Efficiency Conference

The World is facing the gravest global health emergency and its devastating consequences - with hundreds of thousands of lives lost, locked down economies, changes in our daily lives and a conviction that the future will be a different one. 

Countries around the World are still struggling to absorb shocks of economic downturn, increased unemployment and poverty. 

Covid-19 has also transformed the energy and climate landscape and priorities around the World. Plummeting oil prices. Investments in renewable sources halted. Global supply chains disrupted. For some countries energy security has gained the meaning of a national security. 

Around 1 billion people around the world still have no access to energy and the pandemic will only increase inequalities and poverty in all our societies. Thus, ensuring access to and affordability of clean and safe energy for all - becomes an even more important priority. 

Global carbon emissions fall, but there is no reason to celebrate as this happens at the cost of health and widespread economic trauma.

Despite accelerated progress over the past decade, we know that the World will fall short of preset targets in energy sector - especially crucial for Energy Efficiency as its uptake has also been slowing down over the past years. 
 
As we try to recover from these shocks, there are fundamental questions to be answered:
 
- What will it take to make energy systems more resilient to potential future crises? 
- What does it mean for ongoing transition to sustainable energy? 
- What happens next, so that emissions do not rebound back as we have experienced in the past crisis?  
- How do we all mitigate these risks through effective stimuli and policy action?
 
The Pandemic has challenged us all, exposed weaknesses in our economies and energy systems. 
 
Yet, this challenging time offers multiple opportunities to accelerate on energy efficiency action and clean energy transition. And we see many great examples of success stories and stimuli around the World that we will need to build on. 
 
Speaking of my Country, Georgia is a small State with heavy Soviet legacy of energy inefficient buildings that we are gradually replacing. A majority of constructions were built with low energy efficiency standards, which, in a way, creates an excellent ground for experimentation.
    
As a response to current Crisis, Georgia accelerated adoption of energy efficiency legislation and introduced new standards and regulations for energy efficiency in buildings, finalized just recently. 
 
In addition, together with our international partners and donor organizations, including International Energy Agency, Georgia gradually moves toward: modernization and substitution of municipal transport and street lightings, introduction of the pilot biomass fuel supply chain and heating systems, also energy efficient infrastructure and solar thermal technologies at elderly homes and kindergartens. Noteworthy, that the latter has reduced energy costs by 80%. 
Sadly, we are unable to offer the same benefits to our citizens in occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region. 
 
Accelerating the pace of progress in all regions requires stronger political commitment, long-term energy planning, increased public and private financing, and adequate policy and fiscal incentives to trigger faster deployment of new technologies. 
Energy efficiency – as one of the cornerstones for achieving SDG 2030 targets – bears much higher importance in our new reality, with increased emphasis on poor and vulnerable communities. 
As part of sustainable recovery from the crisis, we must build on achievements accomplished thus far and accelerate efforts to achieve affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. 
Today’s conference and recommendations developed by IEA’s Global Commission on Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency offer key topics for reflection and potential solutions for sustainable recovery. 
  
Dear participants,
As we reflect on and attempt to tackle energy efficiency challenges, there are several key messages that I want to leave with you today:  
- It takes strong leadership, commitment and joint action. Even small countries like ours with limited resources can achieve better energy efficiency targets as long as there is a clear vision and systemic action. 
 
- For governments, and that is very important, economic recovery and sustainable energy should not be mutually exclusive.
 
- We need to focus on energy efficiency knowledge and technology transfer to less advanced countries, so that progress is for all.
 
- Need to stimulate green policies, including access to green finance. 
 
- Energy efficiency can indeed be a very powerful mechanism to reduce inequalities and poverty.
 
- Sustainable growth is no longer a choice for tomorrow. SDG’s are a necessity now. And only through sustainable and inclusive recovery - we can achieve the goal of building cleaner and more secure energy systems. We as governments have to lead in that direction.
 
- And while we focus on “All of Government” approach, I would argue that systemic effort requires an “All of Society” approach as well – across individuals, families, communities and civil society - as energy efficiency uptake is largely influenced by people’s decisions and behavior as well. We need to take a truly integrated approach here. And as the President, I am determined to support activities aimed at raising public awareness on the need for energy efficiency. 
 
Let us be proactive and creative as our decisions today will shape our economies and energy sector for the many decades to come and largely influence our climate change goals. 
We are a time of crisis, but we are at a time of great opportunity if we know how to seize them.
 
I wish all participants productive sessions and discussions.
 
Thank you!
 
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