A UN advisory body today called for universal access to modern energy services. The Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change released an exhaustive report detailing the challenges facing energy access in the developing world—where more than 3 billion people still rely on traditional “biomass” for heating and cooking and 1.5 billion lack access to electricity. The group argues that this is a major impediment to realizing the Millennium Development Goals. They propose making access to “Energy for Sustainable Development” a priority for the United Nations.
Of course, cynics may say that expanding access to modern energy services to billions of people in the developing world might have an adverse affect on efforts to curb climate change. In fact, the report notes that the International Energy Agency estimates that this would yield a 1.3% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is to combine a sustained investment in energy access with long term efforts to increase energy efficiency — dual goals, they argue, that are acheivable through a combination of public policy and private investment.
Here is the crux of the proposal:
Ensure universal access to modern energy services by 2030. The global community should aim to provide access for the 2-3 billion people excluded from modern energy services, to a basic minimum threshold of modern energy services for both consumption and productive uses.6Access to these modern energy services must be reliable and affordable,7sustainable and, where feasible, from low-GHG-emitting energy sources. The aim of providing universal access should be to create improved conditions for economic take-off, contribute to attaining the MDGs, and enable the poorest of the poor to escape poverty. All countries have a role to play: thehigh-income countries can contribute by making this goal a development assistance priority and catalyzing financing; the middle-income countries can contribute by sharing relevant expertise, experience and replicable good practices; and the low-income countries can help create the right local institutional, regulatory and policy environment for investments to be made, including by the private sector.
Reduce global energy intensity by 40 per cent by 2030. Developed and developing countries alike need to build and strengthen their capacity to implement effective policies, market-based mechanisms, business models, investment tools and regulations with regard to energy use. Achieving this goal will require the international community to harmonize technical standards for key energy-consuming products and equipment, to accelerate the transfer of know-how and good practices, and to catalyze increased private capital flows into investments in energy effi- ciency. The successful adoption of these measures would reduce global energy intensity by about 2.5 per cent per year – approximately double the historic rate.