Rachel Kyte

Chief Executive Officer, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy

KEYNOTE:  "Cooling, Cooking, Moving and Manufacturing: The Challenges and Opportunities in Limiting Warming to 1.5 Degrees and Ensuring Everyone has Access to Sustainable Energy"


The IPCC report published in October 2018 that examined whether or not we could limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and which described the differences in outcomes of a 1.5 degree world than the 2 degree world previously considered the end goal by many, removed plausible deniability from the international climate negotiation process and from all of those who know the impacts of global warming. The alarming drumbeat of new science on the fast-moving consequences of the carbon pollution already in the atmosphere has begun to grab the attention of the mainstream media and galvanized an emergent rebellion among young people. With new IPCC reports to come (August 2019 report on cryosphere and oceans), the pace with which we move to zero net emissions economies by 2050 must accelerate dramatically. At the same time, the Paris Agreement and the almost simultaneously agreed Sustainable Development Goals were premised on a more inclusive development and at their heart was a commitment that energy systems had to work for all. With just under 1bn people without access to electricity and just under 3bn unable to cook cleanly and with billions more suffering from unreliable energy meeting their development needs for which energy is fundamental and doing so cleanly will determine the health and well-being, prosperity, peace and security. Moving smoothly and quickly down the critical path of decarbonizing energy systems that work for all is a first order of business for all countries irrespective their stage of development. New technologies, business models and systems approaches offer us immense opportunities. Bias, inertia, weak institutions and political leadership may hold us back.


Rachel Kyte is Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy. She is a leading advocate for sustainable development and drives SEforALL’s work to mobilize action towards its 2030 goals on universal energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy. As Special Representative to the Secretary-General, she is the UN point person for the global goal on sustainable energy.

Until December 2015 Rachel Kyte served as World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading integration of climate across the Bank Group’s work as well as support for an ambitious agreement at the 21st Convention of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21). She was previously World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development and was the International Finance Corporation Vice President for Business Advisory Services.

A recipient of numerous awards for leadership for climate action and sustainable development, she is a Professor of practice in sustainable development at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.