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UN, World Bank, IEA Gear Up to Achieve Sustainable Energy for All

The UN and World Bank seek to motivate the international community toward sustainable energy with the "Sustainable Energy for All" initiativeLast year UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon created and set in motion “Sustainable Energy for All,” a global initiative that aims to realize what to many may seem irreconcilable goals: mitigating climate change by fostering deployment of green, renewable energy systems and boosting energy efficiency while also stimulating socioeconomic development and growth by providing access to modern energy services for all those who lack it.

A year on, some 170 national governments have signed on to SE4ALL, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by doubling renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency, and providing access to modern energy services to all those living in their countries. Private sector businesses and other organizations have pledged to invest billions of dollars to achieve SE4ALL’s goals. Aiming to raise the public profile of the initiative, the UN General Assembly has declared the decade 2014-2014 a “Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.”

While notable gains in energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment have been made worldwide, rapid industrialization, population growth and ongoing growth in the use of fossil fuels has all but negated progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulating green, responsible socioeconomic development. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4 percent in 2012 to a record high of 31.6 billion tons, that despite reductions in the world’s developed economies (emissions in the the US were at their lowest level since the mid-1990s), the IEA announced while presenting its latest annual World Energy Outlook in Stockholm this week.

An institutional “Sustainable Energy for All” framework emerges

Fossil fuels continue to account for more than 80 percent of the world’s energy mix, while “a population four times the size of the United States still lives without access to electricity,” according to the recently launched Global Tracking Framework, a multi-agency effort led by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank.

SE4ALL’s ambitious goals are to help foster a doubling of energy efficiency, a doubling of renewable energy capacity and universal access to modern energy services by 2030. Putting an institutional framework and mechanisms in place to monitor and track progress and share information is critical to success. To that end, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and World Bank launched the Global Tracking Framework.

“The Sustainable Energy for All initiative is a rallying cry to tackle the twin crises of energy poverty and climate change, and this Global Tracking Framework is an important first response,” Maria van der Hoeven, IEA executive director and a member of the Advisory Board of the SE4ALL initiative, was quoted in a press release.

“By measuring the scale of the challenge, it provides a crucial reference against which the partners of the SE4ALL initiative, and all of us, can track progress towards building a cleaner energy system for all. The IEA has advocated stronger action to tackle energy poverty for more than a decade as part of its World Energy Outlook, but more needs to be done to tackle the problem. It is a moral imperative and we cannot afford to ignore it.”

Local challenges to achieving global “Sustainable Energy for All”

Renewable energy made up 18 percent of the global energy mix and energy efficiency had increased an average 1.3 percent per year since 1990 as of 2010, according to the Global Tracking Framework’s initial report. An estimated 17 percent of the global population lacked access to electricity and 41 percent “still relied on wood or other biomass to cook and heat their homes.”

Focused, determined action is needed worldwide if SE4ALL goals are to be achieved, but “the nature of the challenge differs across countries and, for each of the SE4ALL goals,” the report authors note. Looking to address this, the report singles out “20 ‘high-impact’ countries that are crucial to making major progress.”

In addition, the IEA and World Bank found that realizing SE4ALL goals will require green energy investment increases of at least US$600 billion per year out to 2030 as compared to the current level. Of that total, investment in boosting energy efficiency will need to increase $394 billion, that for renewable energy by $174 billion per year, that for universal access to electricity by $45 billion per annum, and that for universal access to modern cooking by $4.4 billion per annum.

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