With Resolution 65/161, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, recognizing that “…access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development, which would help to reduce poverty and improve the conditions and standard of living for the majority of the world’s population.”
In response to this challenge, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has developed a new global initiative called Sustainable Energy for All. The initiative was announced to the General Assembly in September 2011, and aims to coordinate partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society in order to meet three interlinked objectives by 2030: ensuring universal access to modern energy services; doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share in renewable energy worldwide.
Governments, businesses and civil society organizations (CSOs) have already taken important steps to meet these objectives but ultimately, success can only be achieved through strong, coordinated, and sustained effort by all stakeholders. To achieve this outcome, the Secretary-General will use his convening power to mobilize action by stakeholders, and build and leverage a global network to drive the initiative. Described below are examples of how each stakeholder group can engage with the Sustainable Energy for All initiative:
- Developing country governments should build up national plans to advance energy access, and promote efficiency and renewables in ways that respond to national circumstances and priorities. Additionally, as a precondition for attracting private investment, institutional frameworks must be in place to ensure transparency and a high degree of predictability.
- Developed country governments should increase the deployment of domestic renewable energy and improve energy efficiency through the entire value chain. Externally, developed countries can provide public capital for technical assistance, support pilot projects or demonstrations, or fund instruments that reduce private-sector risk in support of the three objectives.
- Regional and local governments, urban planners, and transportation authorities can design policies and investments to encourage greater use of public transit, promote bicycling and walking, or heighten the adoption of alternative-fuel vehicles by investing in refueling infrastructure. Governments can also invest in retrofitting public buildings, which represent more than half of the total building stock and are projected to consume 40% of global energy by 2030.
- Donors and multilateral institutions can provide technical assistance and policy guidance, support knowledge and capacity building, and share best implementation practices, as well as make direct financial investments. A multilateral bank, for example, could work to strengthen local financial institutions in order to stimulate investment in clean energy projects.
- Businesses, regardless of size, or the type of product or service it provides, can make commitments to increase energy efficiency and use renewable energy in its operations and supply chains. Large international corporations can take the lead in their respective sectors. Financial services companies can offer guidance to governments on policies to increase private-sector investment, or partner with energy service companies that share the performance and/or the credit risk. Technology companies can undertake research and development to advance innovative technologies or adapt existing technologies to new circumstances.
- Civil society organizations can use their flexibility, focused mission, and often times proximity to the energy poor to help communities implement sustainable energy initiatives, such as identifying appropriate and affordable technology, offer innovative mechanisms to lower up-front costs, and develop business models and supply chains that attract investment.
Collaborations among these stakeholders will take many different forms and cut across all sectors. Consequently, members of the Secretary-General’s High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All and their partners are catalyzing collaborative action across their sectoral and geographic networks, thereby scaling the process. In addition, the UN Global Compact works with companies and relevant industry associations through global and national networks. These efforts seek to strengthen the existing initiatives of all partners, progress sustainable energy uptake, identify opportunities, and develop individual commitments and collaborative partnerships.
Sustainable Energy for All is a call to action to safeguard our collective future. All stakeholders must work together in order to achieve a broad-based transformation of the world’s energy systems over the next twenty years.
(Written by I-Chun Hsiao; Edited by Antonia Sohns)
I-Chun Hsiao was formally a Senior Research Associate on the Energy and Climate team at the United Nations Foundation.