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2011/11/01: International year on Sustainable Energy for All to be launched in January 2012

Sustainable energy for ALL

A Vision Statement by
BAN Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General

Energy enables.
The historic energy transitions – first from human power to animal power, and then from animal power to mechanical power – were major shifts in the human journey toward greater productivity, prosperity, and comfort. It is unimaginable that today’s economies could function without electricity and other modern energy services. From job creation to economic development, from security concerns to the status of women, energy lies at the heart of all countries’ core interests.

Today the world faces two urgent and interconnected challenges related to modern energy services – based on where they are available and where they are not. One out of every five people on Earth lives without access to electricity and the opportunities it provides for working, learning, or operating a business. Twice as many – nearly 3 billion people – use wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste to cook their meals and heat their homes, exposing themselves and their families to smoke and fumes that damage their health and kill nearly 2 million people a year. Without access to energy, it is not possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Where modern energy services are plentiful, the challenge is different. Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from fossil fuels are contributing to changes in the Earth’s climate, to the detriment of those who depend on the planet’s natural systems for survival. Extreme weather events may grow more frequent and intense, in rich and poor countries alike, devastating lives, infrastructure, institutions, and budgets. Climate change threatens food and water security for hundreds of millions of people around the world, undermining the most essential foundations of local, national, and global stability. Competition for scarce resources is increasing, exacerbating old conflicts and creating new ones. As lands degrade, forests fall, and sea levels rise, the movement of people driven from their homes by environmental change may reshape the human geography of the planet.
A special IEA report released in October 2011 indicates the scale of the challenge. The IEA estimates that:
• More than 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity, and at least 2.7 billion people are without clean cooking facilities. More than 95% of these people are either in sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia.
• Investment of $48 billion per year will be needed to provide universal energy access by 2030. This is more than five times the level of investment in 2009 to expand energy access ($9.1 billion) but represents only 3 percent of total global energy investment. Only $4-5 billion per year of that total is needed for clean cooking facilities.
Scientists warn that if the world continues on the current path, global temperatures could rise by more than four degrees Celsius by the end of this century. That will affect everything from the world economy to the health of our citizens and the health of the ecosystems that sustain life on Earth, from energy, food, and water security to international security. We know now that we cannot continue to burn our way to prosperity.
We can choose a different path. Rapid advances in technologies that produce energy from renewable sources and use it more efficiently have made clean energy more affordable than ever, and technologies are being developed that promise cleaner ways of using fossil fuels. Another major shift is at hand – a transformation of the world’s energy systems that will benefit people everywhere.
Growing up as a child during the Korean War, I knew poverty firsthand. I saw it around me every day; I lived it. I studied by candlelight. Conveniences like refrigerators and fans were unknown.
Today, I have seen a brighter energy future in a deeply impoverished region of Malawi, where low-cost solar energy mini-grids are powering modern technologies, such as smart phones and mobile broadband, the latest in drip irrigation, and modern diagnostic tests for malaria, that have the potential to advance human well-being in ways that were not feasible even a few years ago.
Next year the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20. Rio +20 represents an important opportunity for new and decisive steps to mobilize support for clean energy investment – an approach that emphasizes practical answers – and places the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development more equally at the center of policy-making. In Rio the world must connect the dots between growth, energy, water, and food security, poverty, climate change, biodiversity, health, and women's empowerment. Energy can lead the way. I urge the leaders of governments, civil society, communities, and the private sector to turn this vision into reality with concrete commitments to action. With the right actions, world leaders can improve the lives of billions of people.
At a time when so many economies are struggling, some may claim that sustainability is a luxury we cannot afford. But the opposite is true: Depleting our natural resources will deplete our chances of true prosperity. We need to reduce global emissions, conserve the wealth of nature, empower the world’s most vulnerable populations, and catalyze low-carbon prosperity for all. None of this will be possible without a clean energy revolution.
Sustainable development is the imperative of the 21st century. Protecting our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth – these are different aspects of the same fight. We endeavor to create new business and market opportunities, new jobs, and new possibilities for human advancement. We will not achieve any of these goals without energy – sustainable energy for all.

Full Vision Statement by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: