UN launches initiative to promote sustainable energy for all

20 September 2011 – Warning that a lack of access to affordable and clean energy is jeopardizing the achievement of the global targets to combat poverty and disease, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a major new initiative to make sustainable energy universally available.

“Energy is critical for human progress – for health, education, job generation and economic competitiveness,” said Mr. Ban, in remarks delivered on his behalf by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, as he announced the setting up of the High-Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All at a joint UN-private sector forum in New York.

The group will comprise leaders from business, government and civil society from across the world.

The core of the initiative is a vision of achieving universal access to modern energy services, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030.

Countries will be asked to provide significant new commitments and establish public-private partnerships to spur private investment towards the key targets.

“We need to provide access to energy for all. But, we also need to minimize the risks of dangerous climate change by ensuring that universal energy is clean and sustainable. In short, we need a clean energy revolution – now,” Mr. Ban said.

About 1.4 billion people worldwide are estimated to lack access to electricity, with another billion having to deal with unreliable electricity networks. In total, nearly three billion people rely on solid fuels such as coal or traditional biomass for their basic cooking and heating.

Mr. Ban has requested Kandeh Yumkella, the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and United States banking executive Charles Holliday to lead the group’s preparation of the Global Action Agenda in the lead-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil next year.

“The bottom line for the group, indeed for all of us, is to put sustainability into practice – in our policies, business operations, financial decisions… and, not least, in our daily lives,” Mr Ban said.

He said 2012, which is also the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, presents the world “with a historic opportunity” to make progress on this issue.

The Secretary-General announced that a “Framework for Business Action” was being developed to help inspire and guide business support for achieving Sustainable Energy for All.

The framework, which is being developed in conjunction with leading businesses in the UN Global Compact – an initiative that seeks to foster socially responsible corporate practices – outlines three ways of engaging with the UN. They are through a company’s core business and internal operations, social investments, and advocacy and government engagement.