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UN urges achieving sustainable energy for all as International Year kicks off

Article / Review by on January 16, 2012 – 9:28 pmNo Comments

UN urges achieving sustainable energy for all as International Year kicks off

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the opening ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit 2012 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. UN Photo/Evan SchneiderSecretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the opening ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit 2012 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

As the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All kicked off today, United Nations officials called on governments, the private sector and civil society to help expand energy access, improve efficiency and increase the use of renewables.

Globally, one person in five still lacks access to modern electricity and twice that number – three billion people – rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste for cooking and heating.

“We are here to build a new energy future… a future that harnesses the power of technology and innovation in the service of people and the planet,” Mr. Ban said in remarks to the opening of the World Future Energy Summit, which is taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Sustainable energy for all is within our reach.

“Sustainable energy for all is within our reach,” he told the summit, which also serves as the global launch of 2012 as the International Year.

Mr. Ban stressed that energy is central to everything, from powering economies to achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), from combating climate change to underpinning global security.

“It is the golden thread that connects economic growth, increased social equity and preserving the environment.”

And yet, he noted, widespread energy poverty still condemns billions to darkness, to ill-health, to missed opportunities for education and prosperity. “That is why I say, energy poverty must end… We need to turn on the lights for all households.”

To do this, he cited the need to scale up successful examples of clean energy and energy-efficient technologies; innovation that can spread throughout the developing world; partnerships with the private sector; and visionary leadership.

Mr. Ban stressed that energy poverty cannot be allowed to jeopardize progress towards the MDGs – targets aimed at slashing global poverty by 2015 by combating hunger, disease, illiteracy, environment degradation and discrimination against women.

To generate action to reduce energy poverty, catalyze sustainable economic growth and mitigate the risks of climate change, the Secretary-General last year set up a high-level group.

The group is tasked with promoting his Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which seeks to ensure universal access to modern energy services, double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030.

“Our goal,” Mr. Ban later told reporters, “is to reduce poverty and provide opportunity to all, to drive global economic dynamism and to combat climate change. This is a triple win for tough times.”

Also addressing the opening of the summit, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser stressed that there is a more urgent need to ensure the sustainable use of energy today than at any time in the past, given that more than a billion people continue to live without access to electricity.

“The provision of sufficient and low-cost energy is unquestionably an essential component of efforts to alleviate poverty, improve the well-being of mankind, raise living standards and achieve sustainable development,” he stated.

“While international efforts to meet the challenges of development at the global level are continuing, it is increasingly being acknowledged that the provision of sufficient energy is having an increased impact on food security, health, education, transport, communications, water and sanitation.

“Energy has, therefore, become an important constituent, if not an essential means, of achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” stated Mr. Al-Nasser.

He added that by declaring 2012 as the International Year of Energy for All, the Assembly established a key platform from which to raise awareness in the international community of the importance of addressing energy issues, finding ways to develop the renewable energy sector, and promoting efficient energy and water use and waste management.

“As part of the International Year, which officially begins today, it is incumbent upon Member States and international organizations to take initiatives that are designed to create an environment that will foster access to energy and energy-related services and the use of new and renewable energy technologies,” he stated.

“They should also promote innovation and strengthen employment and investment opportunities in order to keep abreast of the growing need for sustainable energy.”

Also today, the Secretary-General met separately with President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson of Iceland, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China and Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik of the Republic of Korea, as well as Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Assembly President also held a meeting with the Foreign Minister of UAE.

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Ban Ki-moon is the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Ban Ki-moon is the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations. His priorities have been to mobilize world leaders around a set of new global challenges, from climate change and economic upheaval to pandemics and increasing pressures involving food, energy and water. He has sought to be a bridge-builder, to give voice to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, and to strengthen the Organization itself.“I grew up in war”, the Secretary-General has said, “and saw the United Nations help my country to recover and rebuild.  That experience was a big part of what led me to pursue a career in public service.  As Secretary-General, I am determined to see this Organization deliver tangible, meaningful results that advance peace, development and human rights.”Mr. Ban took office on 1 January 2007. Highlights of his tenure have included:

Promoting sustainable development
One of the Secretary-General’s first major initiatives was the 2007 Climate Change Summit, followed by extensive diplomatic efforts that have helped put the issue at the forefront of the global agenda.  Subsequent efforts to focus on the world’s main anti-poverty targets, the Millennium Development Goals, have generated more than $60 billion in pledges, with a special emphasis on Africa and the new Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health.  At the height of the food, energy and economic crises in 2008, the Secretary-General successfully appealed to the G20 for a $1 trillion financing package for developing countries and took other steps to guide the international response and protect the vulnerable and poor.

Empowering women
The Secretary-General pressed successfully for the creation of UN Women, a major new agency that consolidates the UN’s work in this area.  His advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality has also included the “Unite to End Violence against Women” campaign, the “Stop Rape Now” initiative, the creation of a “Network of Men Leaders” and the establishment of a new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  Within the UN itself, the Secretary-General has increased the number of women in senior management positions by more than 40 per cent, reaching the highest level in the Organization’s history.

Supporting countries facing crisis or instability
The Secretary-General has sought to strengthen UN peace efforts, including through the New Horizons peacekeeping initiative, the Global Field Support Strategy and the Civilian Capacity Review, a package of steps to improve the impact of the 120,000 United Nations “blue helmets” operating in the world’s conflict zones. A mediation support unit, along with new capacity to carry out the Secretary-General’s good offices, have been set up to help prevent, manage and resolve tensions, conflicts and crises.  Accountability for violations of human rights has received high-level attention through inquiries related to Gaza, Guinea, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, legal processes in Lebanon and Cambodia, and advocacy for the “responsibility to protect,” the new United Nations norm aimed at prevent and halt genocide and other grave crimes.  He has also sought to strengthen humanitarian response in the aftermath of mega-disasters in Myanmar (2008), Haiti (2010) and Pakistan (2010), and mobilized UN support for the democratic transitions in North Africa and the Middle East.

Generating new momentum on disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation
The Secretary-General has sought to rejuvenate the disarmament agenda through a five-point plan, efforts to break the deadlock at the Conference on Disarmament and renewed attention to nuclear safety and security in the aftermath of the tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Strengthening the UN
The Secretary-Generalhas introduced new measures aimed at making the United Nations more transparent, effective and efficient.  These include heightened financial disclosure requirements, compacts with senior managers, harmonization of business practices and conditions of service, the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards, and continued investments in information technology and staff development.

Personal
The Secretary-General was born in the Republic of Korea on 13 June 1944.  He received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Seoul National University in 1970. In 1985, he earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.At the time of his election as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban was his country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. His 37 years of service with the Ministry included postings in New Delhi, Washington D.C. and Vienna, and responsibility for a variety of portfolios, including Foreign Policy Adviser to the President, Chief National Security Adviser to the President, Deputy Minister for Policy Planning and Director-General of American Affairs.Mr. Ban’s ties to the United Nations date back to 1975, when he worked for the Foreign Ministry’s United Nations Division. That work expanded over the years, with assignments that included service as Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization and Chef de Cabinet during the Republic of Korea’s 2001-2002 presidency of the UN General Assembly.  Mr. Ban has also been actively involved in issues relating to inter-Korean relations.The Secretary-General speaks English, French and Korean. He and his wife, Madam Yoo (Ban) Soon-taek, whom he met in high school in 1962, have one son, two daughters and three grandchildren.  Since 2007, Mrs. Ban has devoted her attention to women’s and children’s health, including autism, the elimination of violence against women, and the campaign to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

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> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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