Helen Clark: addressing the energy poverty challenge at the local level

08 Dec 2011

Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator At the Energy Access for All Side Event iLembe District Municipality, South Africa

8 December 2011, at 2.40pm

I would like to thank the Government of South Africa for organizing this field visit to iLembe. It is really a privilege to get out of the conference centre and see what goes on in the real world.

UNDP works closely with governments in Africa and around the world to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

With the aim of developing local communities’ income generating opportunities, UNDP has been assisting African countries in addressing the energy poverty challenge at the local level.

The impact of expanding access to energy services to communities is enormous.  Local energy solutions can support the delivery of basic social services, such as health clinics and schools, and increase female economic participation.

The Economic benefits include job creation and income earning opportunities, agricultural processing and adding value to goods and services.

Supporting community energy activities is not just about energy but also about social, environmental and economic benefits.

Achieving the MDGs at the local level is of fundamental importance to the sustainable development agenda, and will not happen without investments in expanding access to modern energy services for agriculture and food security - village by village, community by community.

UNDP is committed to support developing countries to accelerate progress in achieving the MDGs between now and 2015 – and to sustain the gains made after 2015.  Acceleration requires strong government leadership, effective policies and institutional capacity for scaling up public investments. This has to be complemented by adequate financial and technical support for communities, like the one in this village.

There are also important synergies between the different MDGs; acceleration in one goal often speeds up progress in others. For instance, gender equality and women’s empowerment have large multiplier impacts on the achievement of other MDGs, as does expanding access to energy.

Climate change can have an adverse effect poverty reduction in local communities. Balancing and aligning energy and climate policies is therefore important and can be mutually supportive.

Universal energy access focused on providing clean, modern energy services to all would not only enhance progress towards the MDGs but would be an unprecedented platform from which to launch a low-emission, climate resilient future for Africa.

The current projections show that the number of people relying on biomass for cooking and heating in Africa will increase over the next decade. This could compromise our efforts relating to child and maternal survival, education, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. It will therefore be key to continue to focus on community level energy activities.

Expanded access to affordable electricity, modern fuels and devices, and motive power at the community level will remain an overarching priority for UNDP.

Although the UN Secretary General’s recently launched Sustainable Energy for All initiative, provides the world with a platform to address the energy challenges including those at the community level. It brings together governments, the UN, the private sector and civil society to take action and make energy poverty history.