Statement by Dr. Patrick HO, Deputy Chairman and Secretary General of China Energy Fund Committee

New York – March 6, 2015

  • Today, 1.6 billion people or 22.5 per cent of all humankind still have no access to the basic energy service, and 2.8 billion still rely on burning traditional biomass fuels such as wood, dung and crop residues.
  • 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women.
  • Women in rural areas often spend long hours collecting fuel wood, leaving no time forproductive and income-generating activities. Their health suffered from cooking over smoky fires. Their opportunities for education and income generation are limited by lack of modern energy services.
  • To alleviate such a condition, decision makers in many developing countries often aspire a one-size-fits-all style of national energy policy of grandeur based on high technologies and bought with national treasures. Perhaps they could learn from China’s success story in reducing rural poverty over the last three decades by adopting a smart and pragmatic solution leveraging on the rich resources of 500 million tons of agricultural residues and 1000 million tons of domestic animal droppings that were otherwise going to waste in rural communities, for producing biogas.
  • In China, by 2007, a total of 26.5 million biogas digesters were in operation, as a result of partnership between local governments and communities, providing biogas energy to 40 million households and benefiting 155 million people, 70% of which were women.
  • Through the use of biogas, people’s living conditions and the environment have improved, forests are protected and the labor force has more time for agricultural production. The lives of women, had been totally transformed by the biogas program before the electric grid could provide them with modern energy.
  • In today’s oil and gas era, in developed economies, women are severely under-represented in energy decision-making processes at international, national and local levels as well as in the business sector. A most recent survey revealed that in the top 100 UK-headquartered energy firms, only 5% of executive board seats are currently held by women while 61% of leadership boards have no women present at all. The fossil fuels industries are still strongly dominated by men.
  • But on the other hand, gender diversity has also been increasingly recognized for the potential of women in enhancing leadership, organizational effectiveness, inspiration, people development, and efficient communication. Recent research has shown that companies with gender diversity scored higher marks in innovations and creativity at the executive level, and performed much better in communication with staff and clients, and enhancing stakeholders’ trust at the working level. Indeed, there has been a loud voice calling for a reform in the oil and gas industry to ensure females hold 40% of energy company middle management positions and 30% of executive board seats by 2030.
  • In order to promote equal opportunities within the energy sector, gender mainstreaming should be incorporated into the overall planning and decision-making procedures at the policy and executive level, the organization and program level, and at the implementation and project level.
  • Women have always been in a disadvantage position in this fossil fuel era and particularly in the oil and gas industries, having to pay extra effort to catch up with men. However, new technologies and future innovation can bring opportunities to women instead of having women to catch up with opportunities. In this new era of renewable energy, a leapfrog paradigm may enable women and men to start with equal footing and equal opportunity.
  • A good example is the Solar Sister Program of Uganda which began in 2010, to reduce energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity, combining the breakthrough potential of solar technology with a direct sales of portable solar light through women-centered community networks to bring energy, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa. Three women started the program in 2010, and today more than 300 women were working for their own businesses and communities.
  • Energy policies need to be carefully designed in an integrated fashion with partnerships from Governments, business, civil society, and other stakeholders, and with a multidisciplinary approach that benefit both women and men. All of us should seek to understand the gender-differentiated needs and responsibilities of men and women, to recognize the value brought in by both genders equally for their similarities as well as their differences – and how their diverse roles can facilitate to chart a way forward for women’s economic and political empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda.
  • We should never forget that energy belongs to the entire human race, both women and men, and accessibility to energy is a basic human right.