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Bringing clean energy to the poor

 InDepth News 13 May 2019

A new report has called for a global campaign in support of Energy for Sustainable Development, focusing on improving access to modern energy services and enhancing energy efficiency, as well as raising awareness about the essential role of clean energy in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while addressing climate change, promoting economic growth and conserving natural resources and biodiversity. (1242 Words) - By Clive Banerjee


VIENNA, Austria - A new report has called for a global campaign in support of Energy for Sustainable Development, focusing on improving access to modern energy services and enhancing energy efficiency, as well as raising awareness about the essential role of clean energy in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while addressing climate change, promoting economic growth and conserving natural resources and biodiversity.

The report, issued by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) on April 28 in New York, wants the campaign to ensure that energy is made an integral part of the MDG review process in 2010 as well as other major inter-governmental processes - including those on climate change, biodiversity, desertification, food security, and sustainable development.

This year, in September, world leaders will meet at the United Nations to assess progress on the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and to chart a course of action for the period leading up to the agreed MDG deadline of 2015. Later in the year, government delegations will gather in Mexico to continue the process of working towards a comprehensive, robust and ambitious climate change agreement.

Energy lies at the heart of both of these efforts. The campaign should, therefore, encourage the UN and its member states, other multilateral institutions, and the private and non-profit sectors to take the actions needed to achieve its goals, said Kandeh Yumkella, chair of the Advisory Group and the interagency coordinating body, UN Energy, and Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The report found that a lack of access to modern energy services represents a significant barrier to development. Some 1.5 billion people still lack access to electricity. A reliable, affordable energy supply, the report says, is the key to economic growth and the achievement of the anti-poverty targets contained in the MDGs.

By 2030, the report states, there must be universal basic access to modern energy services and substantial increases in energy efficiency. It calls for a 40 per cent reduction in global energy intensity by 2030, which, if implemented, would reduce global energy intensity by 2.5 per cent per year - approximately double the historical rate.

Ban underscored the importance of the Group's work by noting that "the decisions we make today on our energy future will have far-reaching consequences - for climate change, for development, economic growth and global security. Providing clean, affordable energy for all is essential. It is a massive challenge, but - as this report shows - it can be done."

Increasing access to modern energy services at a level sufficient to meet basic human needs would not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. The International Energy Agency estimates that expanding access to electricity to cover basic needs would result in only a 1.3 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

These emissions could be further reduced through greater energy efficiency and the use of renewable or cleaner sources of energy. Energy efficiency, the report notes, is far more cost-efficient - by two thirds- than even the lowest cost greenhouse gas abatement opportunities.

The investment needed to ensure universal energy access will be substantial, the report notes, and would require both public and private financing.

However, according to Yumkella, such an investment is worthwhile as well as timely. "The payoff would be even bigger," he noted. "This report is a real action plan," he said. "It sets forth an ambitious but achievable way to provide everyone access to electricity and other modern energy services."

He added that the technology and the business models already exist to achieve the energy targets. However, he cautioned that the initiative would need significant commitments from national governments and the international community.

Some countries, Yumkella said, have already shown that it is possible to rapidly expand energy access, including Brazil, China, and Viet Nam. And he cited China, Denmark, Japan and Sweden, as well as California in the United States, as places that have dramatically improved their energy efficiency.

In addition, the report suggests an array of policy options for countries, depending on their present state of development. Reorienting policy frameworks, including tariffs and market regimes, to stimulate business innovation and private sector participation are among the measures urged by the advisory group.

The advisory group was set up by the UN Secretary-General in June 2009 to advise him on the energy-related dimensions of the climate change negotiations.


Recommendations backed by Ban - setting two new goals for the world: achieving universal access to modern energy services and cutting global energy intensity 40 percent by 2030 - were lauded by Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation.

"The Secretary-General once again has shown his remarkable leadership on energy and climate change by supporting these two goals for the world: assuring universal access to modern energy services by 2030 and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency," Wirth said in a statement.

He added: "Energy is the oxygen of commerce and wealth creation; it is essential to economic development. Modern energy powered the industrial revolution and raised the productivity, living standards and wealth of countless millions."

Developing countries need that same opportunity to improve their people's lives. A world where 1.5 billion people live without access to electricity is simply unacceptable." At the same time, Wirth said, this development path must not simply copy the one we followed for the past 200 years.

He pleaded for investment in clean energy that is needed for truly sustainable development, and energy efficiency is at the heart of that. Highly efficient equipment reduces the need for power, cutting the cost of providing and using energy, Wirth explained.

"Producing more with less makes economic sense and is fast approaching an environmental imperative. Ensuring that everyone has access to energy for their economic advancement is a moral imperative," the United Nations Foundation president said.

"The development stimulated by increased energy access will not only benefit the people who live in developing countries. This growing prosperity will also increase demand for modern products and services - creating new markets for which we can all compete."

According to Yumkella, AGECC is a prime example of a multi-stakeholder partnership bringing together the UN system, including the World Bank, with the private sector and research institutions. Its work has benefited from a unique mix of policy orientation, technical expertise and business experience of leading figures in the field of energy.

The 20-man advisory group includes Tariq Banuri, director, Division for Sustainable Development, UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs; Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; José María Figueres, Former President of Costa Rica; Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO, The Masdar Initiative, UAE; and Lars Josefsson, CEO, Vattenfall AB, Sweden.

Other members comprise: Olav Kjørven, Assistant Administrator, UNDP, and Vice Chair, UN-Energy; Sergey Koblov, Director, UNESCO Energy Centre, Russian Federation; Helge Lund, CEO, Statoil, Norway; Alexander Mueller, Assistant Director-General, FAO; Jamal Saghir, Director, Energy, Water and Transport, The World Bank Group; Leena Srivastava, Executive Director, The Energy and Resources Institute, TERI, India; Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP; and Timothy Wirth, President, United Nations Foundation, USA.

The report contains a broad set of concrete proposals. For example, the advisory group says, technical and financial support should be provided to help governments formulate appropriate plans, policies and regulations and develop local institutional capacities to enable their effective delivery, with a focus on "delivering as one" through United Nations country teams, supported and facilitated by UN-Energy.


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