The Youth SDG Summit, hosted by UNITE 2030 took place 22- 24 September, 2021. UNITE 2030 is the movement that is helping us to mobilize participation to accelerate the SDGs by 2030. The Joint SDG Fund was in attendance for the Power On: Energizing a greener and sustainable world - In Partnership with Joint SDG Fund session which took place on 22 September, 2021. Jennifer Zabasajja, Bloomberg Newsroom moderated the session for our enthusiastic panelists. The panel consisted of Lisa Kurbiel, Head of the Joint SDG FundSecretariat, AY Young, Founder of the Battery Tour, Henry Mcloughlin, Strategy, Partnerships and Advocacy Lead of Capricorn Investment Group, Ronald Mincy, Nairobi Africa Capital Alliance and Gemma Styles, Influencer. With a focus on how we can achieve a more green and sustainable world, panelists and attendees alike were united under one message: to plug in and power on!
UN youth envoy leader AY Young started off the session with his energetic introduction to his solar trailer, which is part of the Battery Tour. AY Young is using his solar trailer to harness energy from solar and storing it in batteries, giving him a way to sustainably power his concerts. AY Young gave a special performance of his new song “Save the Planet”, powered by renewable energy from his solar trailer. AY Young is focused on using his passion for music as a vehicle to power the SDGs and using the framework of the SDGs to plug in young people.
With 17 SDGs to meet by 2030, Lisa Kurbiel focused on the priorities of the Joint SDG Fund. The Fund is a neutral convener, says Lisa Kurbiel, where the only goal is to do the right thing, to save the planet, and to achieve the SDGs. With so many crises in the world, we need to plug everyone in from wall street, to private investors, generous investors, and to align all sectors with the SDGs, so that we may reach those people who are most vulnerable to hunger, poverty, climate crises, and injustices.
Ronald Mincy spoke about bringing finance to Africa to push us closer to the goals of 2030. There is a need to invest in companies, banks, businesses, that use renewable energy to power their services and distributions. Ronald Mincy acknowledged how important this is in many parts of Africa where we cannot always rely on a national grid. People and countries need to be able to run operations without worrying about the reliability or sustainability of their power sources. Ronald Mincy enforced that we need to keep looking to invest in people who are directly producing renewable energy and those that offer renewable solutions.
Henry Mcloughlin also had a focus on the urgent need for renewable energy and solutions. Over the past 10 years renewable energy has become easily accessible as it is more efficient, cheaper and has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 40%. However, Henry Mcloughlin noted that governments have been absent in making mandates for renewable energy. If AY Young is going around the world, creating power through batteries on his own, then why can’t companies and governments?
Henry Mcloughlin knows there is no excuse not to be using renewable energy and when asked why haven’t we adopted it as widely as it needs to be he answered that “we don’t have a technology problem, we have a transitioning problem”.
Henry Mcloughlin believes that we need people to adopt these very much available technologies, but the adoption is very slow. If we come together with the UN, artists and people that can imagine a different future, we can do this in a few years not decades. Henry Mcloughlin emphasized that we do not have decades for these changes to happen, the ‘red alert’ is now. We need political power, activists, and influencers. This is how we build coalitions to put pressure on governments to prioritize the climate crisis.
Gemma Styles brought the conversation back to young people and activists and how they can use their voice to fight against climate change and injustices. “You don't have to be someone with a title or platform to have an influence”.
Gemma Styles suggested that a way to get involved is to balance your thinking between what you can do and what is the bigger picture. The UN is taking Gemma’s idea of balanced thinking by focusing on the big picture of the SDGs while focusing on blending finance between public and private sectors to make progress towards funding programmes that will help achieve the SDGs by 2030. Lisa Kurbiel provided an example in Gabon, a naturally resource wealthy country, which is transitioning to sustainable timber. The UN is bringing in expertise for a Green Bond to amplify funding for this project that will use financial instruments and frontload the money. Lisa Kurbiel noted that it is not enough to take grant money from one country and to give it to another, and that blended finance is the way to go, so we can make a return, go green and to build forward better. Even though the programme is building a plan for sustainable timber in 20 years, they are acting and preparing now for a future they want to see.
How do you capitalize equality? Lisa Kurbiel answered that as a fund, we want to put money behind the 75 year old UN mandate that focuses on human rights, to make sure certain people are included and have a seat at the table.
Gemma Styles commented that people are looking for actions to take and drew attention to the Joint SDG Fund’s ‘Donate to the SDGs’ campaign. The Joint SDG Fund has a donation button that has been used throughout the week of the UNGA to get people to take action. This is one way people can get involved, by donating to the SDGs. You don’t have to be a private banker or investor, anyone and everyone can and should donate. The Joint SDG Fund is a start up, it is only two years old. Lisa Kurbiel mentioned that every time an influencer acknowledges the Fund, it is a celebration because we are symbolizing the merger between all sectors of the world on behalf of the SDGs.
Gemma Styles noted that we need actions that look achievable to people, for example not drinking from plastic water bottles or switching to using green energy. We must continue to find ways that translate the importance of the SDGs into things people care about. For example, AY Young said that a year and a half ago he didn’t know what the SDGs were. AY Young got involved with the UN and the SDGs through his initial passion for music. He took his passion and decided to make and share music in a sustainable way.
Lisa Kurbiel reflected on the past two years. None of us could have predicted the world we are living in now. Let's imagine where we can go, join forces and move because there's a lot of people ready to go, people ready to take action; let's empower all other voices, bring them to the table, give them opportunity, and education so that we may achieve the SDGs by 2030 and reach those most affected by extreme hunger, poverty, climate crises, and injustices. Ronald Mincy stated that we all have an opportunity to use our voices. Ronald Mincy shared a saying: “some people assume the ocean was made by big splashes of water but it was really made from rain drops”.
We need to make more and more rain drops to make an ocean. We need more people and more people to achieve the SDGs. We can do it. We have the platforms, we have people like AY Young and Gemma Styles mobilizing youth participation. We need to share with everyone the importance of plugging into the SDGs and powering on to achieve our 2030 goal.