Like our cave-dwelling ancestors of 200,000 years ago, nearly three billion people still use fire for cooking and heating. Of those, some 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity. For a billion more, their only access is to sporadic and unreliable electricity networks.
Now an ambitious global effort is being launched by the United Nations to bring electricity to everyone on the planet by 2030.
“Energy is the issue for the next decade,” said Kandeh Yumkella, director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
“Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is impossible without energy,” Yumkella said at the opening of the 2011 Vienna Energy Forum last week.
The MDGs include reducing by half the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015, and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Some 1,200 delegates from 100 countries participated in the forum, along with 40 government ministers, to discuss how to bring clean, efficient, reliable and affordable energy services for the long-term prosperity of all people.
“The 791 million people in sub-Saharan Africa use as much electricity as the 19 million in metropolitan New York City,” Yumkella told delegates.
Indoor air pollution from burning dung, charcoal, and wood for heating and cooking leads to nearly two million premature deaths of women and children every year, more than all the deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, he said. “We’re here to prepare an action plan to be launched later this year to change all this.”
Extending electrical services to the 1.5 billion who have no access will cost between 30 and 40 billion dollars a year for the next 20 years, according to various estimates by the International Energy Agency and others. That represents just three percent of current annual expenditures on energy. And it is just eight percent of what is currently spent on subsidies for fossil fuels, said Carsten Staur, the permanent representative of Denmark to the United Nations.
“The goal of energy for all is ambitious but doable,” Staur said.
That goal is one of three energy goals U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon asked participants at the Forum to support and on which to develop a plan of action to be launched in 2012 during the U.N. International Year for Sustainable Energy for All
Read more at IPS News.
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