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UNIDO’s Müller invokes a new spirit of progress in energy and industrialization

20 September 2023

DG 11th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development at Colombia University

NEW YORK - During the UN General Assembly’s high-level week, UNIDO Director General Gerd Müller joined Democratic Republic of Congo President, Felix Tshisekedi, FAO Director General, Qu Dongyu, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, among others, at the 11th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development at Colombia University.  Speakers at the high-level plenary discussed solutions to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and launched urgent appeals for action on sustainable development.

In his keynote address to the conference, UNIDO’s Müller highlighted that in the face of unprecedented global challenges, the world community needs a collective major course correction towards inclusive and sustainable development and industrialization. Müller stressed that, even acknowledging the scale of the tasks ahead, a focus on decisive action for realistic solutions was much preferable to excessive alarmism, “We have the technologies, the knowledge and the global capital for solutions. So the good news is that first, we know what to do.  Second, we know how to do it. But we need the ambition and the political will to follow through!”

Under Müller’s leadership, UNIDO is the platform to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, technologies, investments, innovations to put developing countries on a more sustainable path. As part of this mission, UNIDO recently released its SDG9 Progress Report, which highlights the limited advancement towards SDG9 and underlines the Organization’s important role in accelerating progress.

The report uses the latest official data and statistics to draw a comprehensive picture of global progress towards the industry-related targets of SDG9. The findings are sobering: despite a few pockets of progress, many countries have made only limited headway in achieving the Goal’s targets, with some even regressing.

SDG 9 Progress by country in 2020
The figure shows the average SDG 9 Progress by country in 2020, the latest year with complete data.

In addition, the gap between high-income economies and low-income economies continues to grow, affecting sustainable growth and limiting developing countries’ opportunities to catch-up. COVID-19 and other recent crises have amplified this gap.

Least developed countries and other countries with specific development challenges are a particular concern. These countries are among those making limited progress and missing out on the benefits that industrialization could bring to their efforts to promote prosperity and well-being.

There are, however, some encouraging trends. The latest data shows that the environmental impact of industry is gradually decreasing. Over the last decade, a decoupling has been underway, with manufacturing activity growing faster than CO2 emissions. Although this is insufficient to achieve global climate goals, it shows that it is possible to change direction and create positive outcomes through global action, technological advances and political will.

In this context, UNIDO argues that industrial policy can become a key tool to address the big challenges confronting the world. During a question and answer session with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Müller said that UNIDO can be an important player in the revolution that is needed to achieve SDG9 industry targets and overall sustainable development. He added that with UNIDO providing technical assistance, policy advice and capacity support to achieve results in the most critical areas: green energy, circular production models, and innovative technological upgrading, it is absolutely possible to build up industry that is both socially just and environmentally sound.

Later this year, UNIDO will publish the 2024 edition of the Industrial Development Report (IDR) at the upcoming 20th UNIDO General Conference. IDR 2024 will focus on how industrial policy can direct such solutions and the full power of industry to accelerate SDG progress in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

UNIDO’s flagship report will showcase industrial policy solutions for developing regions to harness global trends such as digitalization and decarbonization. IDR 2024 contains fresh empirical evidence on SDG progress drawn from the SDG9 Progress Report, as well as inputs from 33 Members States and from prominent experts from around the world, collected during the June 2023 regional workshops on industrial policy for SDG acceleration.