4 April 2012
International Congress on Energy Security
Remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
International Congress on Energy Security
International Conference Centre of Geneva
Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 10 a.m.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased to be here today to address this forum and would like to thank the International Congress on Energy Security for the organization of such an interesting and relevant programme. Energy security, in all its aspects, is a key issue for the international community. It is a challenge that must be tackled broadly. Less than half a year ago, the global population rounded the milestone of 7 billion. Just as one example, from 2006 to 2011, the global online population increased from 18 to 35 per cent. At the same time, around 1.5 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, and 1 billion more only have intermittent access. This shows the challenges we face. International organizations, industry, civil society and governments must partner to meet this challenge, so that the vast opportunities of the modern world are available to everybody. And of course for these opportunities to be truly available to everybody, they must be approached in a sustainable fashion.
One of the priorities of the United Nations, and one that is particularly stressed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his five-point action agenda, is promoting sustainable development. A key building block for sustainable development is achieving sustainable energy for all. Energy should be accessible, cleaner and more efficient. In recognition of the critical role that energy plays in sustainable development, the Secretary-General recently launched the “Sustainable Energy for All Initiative”. It calls for private sector and national commitments and attracts global attention to the importance of energy for development and poverty alleviation. The goal is to meet three objectives by 2030: First, ensuring universal access to modern energy services; second, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and third, doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. These three objectives, each one important in its own right, reinforce each other in many instances. Achieving the three objectives together will maximize development benefits and help stabilize climate change in the long run.
I would like to first address the critical issue of access to energy. Today, nearly 3 billion people around the world rely on traditional, non-electric means for cooking and heating. They cook and heat their homes with wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste. This is inequitable, inefficient and unsustainable. A small but concrete example of the difference that access to sustainable energy can make is found in Bozorboi Burunov, a rural community south of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. With support from the United Nations Development Programme, a new, small-scale hydro plant is bringing reliable electricity to homes, schools, and businesses. It is also heating the local hospital and schools and pumping clean water into the community.
As shown through this example, energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Jobs, climate change, health, education, food production or poverty - sustainable energy is essential to strengthen economies, protect ecosystems and achieve equity. It is true that without access to energy we cannot meet the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The second key challenge that we face in relation to energy – and one that will be addressed in this forum tomorrow - is that of climate change. Emissions of greenhouse gases, largely from the use of fossil fuels, are changing the Earth’s climate. Climate change threatens food and water security for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Land degradation and desertification already affect 1.5 billion people across the globe. Land degradation and drought causes the loss of about 12 million hectares of productive land every year on which 20 billion tonnes of grains could grow; this is equal to 23 hectares of land transformed into man-made desert every minute. Extreme weather events are growing more frequent and intense, in rich and poor countries alike. This affects everything from the world economy to the health of our citizens and ecosystems; the effects are felt in energy, food, and water security, all of which are critical to international security.
But we should not have to continue with “business as usual”. Technologies that produce energy from renewable sources and that help us to use it more efficiently have made clean energy more affordable than ever. Technologies are also being developed that promise cleaner ways of using fossil fuels. Reaching the two objectives of energy efficiency and renewable energy is not just important – it is critical. Cutting out waste and getting more done with the same amount of energy is a step made even more necessary by the fact that 3 billion more consumers will enter the middle class by 2030. The International Energy Agency has estimated that each additional $1 spent on energy efficiency in electrical equipment, appliances, and buildings avoids an average of more than $2 in energy supply.
Investing in renewable energy can create local jobs and growth, and improves energy security for countries that lack domestic fossil resources. Increasing the share of energy from renewable sources can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution, insulate countries from fuel price volatility, and improve their balance of payments. Renewable energy is also becoming increasingly cost-competitive. Hydro, geothermal and bio-energy have long been competitive where resources are good, and wind and solar are also economically attractive in many locations.
Technological advances are seeing these goals come within reach. During the last five years, the renewable energy industry has seen tremendous growth, with capacity expanding, prices declining, and performance improving. At least 118 countries - half of them developing countries - have put in place some form of policy target or renewable support policy at the national level. A number of state and local governments have also done so, with increasingly notable results.
Moving forward on these issues in a steady and sustainable way will require economic growth, environmental protection, and social equity in balanced measure. These challenges are inter-linked and cannot be addressed in isolation. This June, the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20. This Conference represents an important opportunity to promote sustainable energy, and to take new and decisive steps to mobilize support for clean energy investment. It represents an opportunity to address the challenges we all face in the fields of growth, energy, water, and food security, poverty, climate change, biodiversity, health, and women’s empowerment.
There are challenges to taking this broad, sustainable approach. But with dedicated work and partnership, challenges can be met. Accessible, cleaner and more efficient energy is an important part of this empowerment.
I hope that as you continue your discussions today and tomorrow, you will keep in mind the key role that energy plays in sustainable development – and in a better and more secure world for us all.
Thank you very much.