Sustainable Energy for All: A framework for action

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Publication Date: 
01 January 2012

The Secretary-General's initiative on Sustainable Energy for All presents a new path to partnership to create the conditions for successful investment in the energy transformation that the world requires. Supplying modern energy services to the billions who now lack electricity and clean fuels is not just a moral imperative but a unique business opportunity - a huge market in itself and one that will create new levels of prosperity and demand for goods and services of all kinds. Equipping the rest of the world with low-carbon energy technologies for a sustainable planet is an even bigger, trillion-dollar opportunity. If we work together - businesses, investors, governments, and civil society - to create these markets and reduce risk, investment will surely follow.

Achieving Sustainable Energy for All is essential to reaching the Millennium Development Goals while growing our economies and safeguarding the environment. At a time when 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity, when 2.7 billion people do not have clean and safe cooking facilities, and when a shift to sustainable energy use is imperative to protect the Earth’s climate, the Secretary- General has launched a global initiative to achieve Sustainable Energy for All. The initiative aims to bring together the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. Stakeholders are urged to take concrete action toward achieving three critical objectives by 2030:

  • Ensuring universal access to modern energy services.
  • Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
  • Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

The Secretary-General's High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All believes that these objectives are fully attainable by 2030. Several countries have demonstrated rapid electrification; programmes in the EU, Japan and elsewhere show that energy efficiency improvements can be both effective and profitable; and in many countries, renewables like hydro, geothermal, wind and solar energy are already competitive alternatives to fossil fuels. Pursuing the three objectives simultaneously will make each easier to accomplish, while realising multiple benefits and maximising their joint impact.

Stakeholders will benefit by joining this effort. The transition to sustainable energy systems presents a large opportunity – perhaps one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century. At a time of financial challenge, businesses will gain access to new or expanded markets; forge productive new partnerships; develop cutting-edge technologies and products; form new relationships with policy makers; and enjoy more reliable power supplies. Governments will attract new investment and tap new sources of expertise; donor countries will improve the effectiveness of their aid efforts. Civil society organisations will be able to scale up current efforts and increase their impact.

Joint action will bring transformational change. Progress toward sustainable energy for all is often obstructed by multiple, interlocking barriers; overcoming these barriers will require multiple, mutually reinforcing actions – appropriate to local circumstances and resource availability. Stakeholders are urged to form partnerships locally, nationally, regionally and globally to facilitate progress.

All stakeholders must act – businesses, governments, and civil society. Each can play to its own strengths and interests: improving policies and institutional capacity; supporting technological and value chain innovation; ensuring that public resources are used to maximise the flow of private investment; and stimulating end-user efficiency through education and new delivery models.

This initiative will mobilise and facilitate commitments, and monitor progress. Through these activities the initiative will help bring strategic focus to individual actions, scale up existing best practices and successful initiatives, support their coordination and identify synergies, foster partnerships, and provide all stakeholders with clear indicators of progress towards the initiative’s goals.

The initiative will focus particularly on ‘high-impact areas.’ The three objectives of Sustainable Energy for All are broad and encompass many sectors of the economy. Grouping commitments will build strategic coherence and facilitate scale-up and monitoring. Stakeholders will find it easier to see where they fit into the broader effort. Members of the High-level Group will lead the way in key opportunity areas, which may target one objective or cut across several, to inspire commitments by other stakeholders.

The High-level Group will develop an Action Agenda identifying concrete opportunities and an Accountability Framework to facilitate implementation. All countries, businesses, and organisations are invited to participate and make commitments to concrete actions. A simple process will enable parties to opt in, develop commitments, and participate in a cycle of action, learning, reporting, review and recognition. By the time of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June, Rio+20, we will have charted a clear path to reach our common goal: Sustainable Energy for All.

For more information download the report.