Helen Clark: Speech at the Global launch of the UN Decade on Sustainable Energy for All

Jun 5, 2014

Helen Clark
UNDP Administrator and UNDG Chair
Speech at the
Global launch of the UN Decade on Sustainable Energy for All
United Nations, New York

The global launch of the UN Decade on “Sustainable Energy for All” recognizes the fundamental role of energy as an enabler of sustainable development. The Decade begins as UN Member States are very focused on the priorities to be set in the post-2015 development agenda. It is very encouraging to see momentum for the inclusion of energy as a Sustainable Development Goal, as there can be no doubt that access to energy plays an indispensable role in economic and social development. If energy supply is also health- and eco-friendly, that brings many benefits too.

Still in the 21st century, women and children are walking long distances to gather firewood for cooking; inhalation of fumes from cooking and heating with traditional fuels is harming the health of many; the burning of fossil fuels is accelerating global warming; and there is significant energy loss from its inefficient distribution and use. All these challenges need to be addressed.

It is to be hoped, at the outset of this UN decade, that there will be the necessary political will and momentum to bring about fundamental changes in how we produce, distribute, and consume energy, and to bring access to modern energy services to all.

Technology breakthroughs and significant price reductions on renewables, such as wind and solar, and growing public recognition of the essential role which energy plays in sustainable development can carry this momentum forward. 
To meet the objective of Sustainable Energy for All, investments in energy infrastructure and upgrades of existing power generation and of distribution networks are essential.

Also critical, however, is stepped up investment in small scale, off-grid, and bottom-up energy solutions to serve remote communities far from electricity or gas supply. Investments in these solutions are often held back because policy and regulatory frameworks are not favourable, and/or because obtaining financing for a large number of small projects can be difficult.

In Ethiopia, UNDP, with funding from the Global Environment Facility, has been supporting the Government to remove regulatory barriers to scaling up the national “Improved Cook Stoves” programme. This programme is also developing access to microcredit, in order to accelerate the distribution of improved cook stoves, with the goal of nine million being installed by the end of next year.

UNDP has the largest energy-related portfolio in the UN system, with, currently 160 projects in more than 100 countries. Our work is backed by US$570 million in grant funding, largely supported through our very strong partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF). From that grant base, a total of US$4.5 billion more is leveraged in co-finance for the projects.

UNDP’s programming addresses the inter-connected challenges of energy poverty, sustainable energy, and climate change. In our new Strategic Plan our work on sustainable energy is directly linked to how we advance inclusive and sustainable growth, poverty eradication, and address climate change.

At UNDP we hope that the UN Decade on “Sustainable Energy for All” will spur much more action on bringing universal access to clean, affordable, and efficient energy supply – a goal to which we are totally committed.

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