Energy Justice & Sustainable Energy for All: The Next Steps

A mother cooking bread for her children over a fire

The ability to harness energy is fundamental to economic and social development. Worldwide, almost 3 billion people have little or no access to beneficial energy resources for cooking, heating, water sanitation, illumination, transportation, or basic mechanical needs. Energy poverty exacerbates ill health and economic hardship, and reduces educational opportunities, particularly for women and children. Specifically, access to efficient and affordable energy services is a prerequisite for achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) relating to poverty eradication.

In response, the UN has declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All and announced a goal of universal energy access by 2030. It is worth emphasizing in this context that electricity is indisputably the ultimate, achievable goal when seeking access to energy. However, the daunting costs and time necessary to “leapfrog” from biomass and kerosene to electricity render it the final goal, but not necessarily the first step in accessing beneficial energy. Appropriate Sustainable Energy Technologies (ASETs), such as clean combustion technologies, simple filtration systems, and photovoltaic illumination, can provide interim access to beneficial, life-saving energy.

Numerous programs of the EU and its member countries, who continue to be the largest aid donors in the world, have recognized the importance of energy as an integral part of poverty alleviation. The EU Energy Initiative for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development (EUEI) was launched at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg to give priority to the importance of energy in poverty alleviation. The EuropeAid – ACP-EU Energy Facility was established in 2005, within the EU Energy Initiative for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development (EUEI), as a co-financing instrument for increasing access to sustainable and affordable energy services for the poor living in rural and peri-urban areas in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The US is expanding its aid related energy horizons, and access to modern energy services to power economic and social development is the cornerstone of USAID’s energy-related mission. The US supports the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a new public-private partnership to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions that can greatly reduce the harmful indoor air pollution caused by cooking over an open fire or with inefficient stoves. The Alliance’s ‘100 by ’20’ goal calls for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020. It also supports the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air (PCIA) which was established in 2002.

The 2012 Energy Justice Conference will evaluate the much- heralded UN conference on Sustainable Development: Rio+20. taking place in June 2012. It will focus on a number of defining and hitherto unexplored issues that will need to be canvassed pursuant to Rio+20, to promote the UN call of Sustainable Energy for All.

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