Time Has Come to Make Changes in Energy that Are ‘Profound and Durable’, Says Secretary-General, Launching ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ Initiative

20 September 2011

Time Has Come to Make Changes in Energy that Are ‘Profound and Durable’, Says Secretary-General, Launching ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ Initiative

20 September 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Time Has Come to Make Changes in Energy that Are ‘Profound and Durable’, Says


Secretary-General, Launching ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ Initiative


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as delivered on his behalf by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, at the United Nations Private Sector Forum on Sustainable Energy for All, today, 20 September, in New York: 

You are all revolutionaries.  I know this may not be something you are used to hearing.  But, in fact, you are part of a revolution in the relationship between the United Nations and the private sector.

The private sector is becoming an essential — even a core — United Nations partner across the breadth of the organization.  Together we are making changes that are profound and durable.  We have seen it in the field of public health.  We have seen it in the work of the Global Compact.  I am convinced we must see it in the field of energy as well. 

To this end, I am launching a Sustainable Energy for All initiative.  The aim is to catalyse action at all levels.  It will bring together leaders from government, finance, business and civil society and establish partnerships that will make sustainable energy for all a reality.

Energy is critical for human progress — for health, education, job generation and economic competitiveness.  For the developing world, energy poverty is devastating.  Parents cannot grow enough food or adequately support their families without motorized equipment, irrigation pumps, and power for business activities.  Women spend hours each day on routine daily subsistence activities — pounding grain, hauling water and gathering firewood.  They have little or no time for earning income.  And when they cook over open fires, they and their children are exposed to harmful pollutants from inhaled smoke.  Health clinics and schools cannot function properly.  Children don’t receive necessary health care — including vaccines that need to be kept cold — nor can they study after dark.   Taken together, energy poverty is jeopardizing the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

We need to provide access to energy for all.  But, we also need to minimize the risks of dangerous climate change by ensuring that universal energy is clean and sustainable.  In short, we need a clean energy revolution — now.

That is why I am establishing my High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All.  The Group will comprise truly stellar individuals — business, government and civil society leaders from around the world.  They will work with me to develop and put into play a global action agenda for my initiative.  The aim is to drive a clear vision to be achieved by 2030 — first, ensuring universal access to modern energy services; second, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; third, doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

These objectives are ambitious.  But they are achievable.  Together, they can revitalize the global economy, help combat climate change, and go a long way towards ensuring equal opportunity for all.  I have asked Kandeh Yumkella and Charles Holliday to lead the Group as it works to deliver the Global Action Agenda in the lead-up to the Rio+20 United Nations conference on Sustainable Development.  I thank them for their leadership.  The bottom line for the Group — indeed for all of us — is to put sustainability into practice — in our policies, business operations, financial decisions, and, not least, in our daily lives.

Sustainability has been debated for 20 years and more.  It has been endorsed by conferences and Governments.  But it has not become an integral part of our policy DNA.  We have yet to succeed in changing business as usual.  I hope you — as business people — can help us.  We must ensure that sustainability can be sold — both in the rough and tumble marketplace of electoral politics and in the commercial marketplace where money talks.

Today we are introducing a framework for business action to help inspire and guide business support for achieving sustainable energy for all.  The Framework, which is being developed in conjunction with leading businesses in the Global Compact, outlines three ways of engaging with the United Nations:  through a company's core business and internal operations, through social investments, and through advocacy and Government engagement.  I commend it to all.

Now is the time to move from short-term thinking to long-term value investment.  I am very pleased to see how many Governments and businesses are willing to act.  From Africa to America; from Europe to China — let us build on these examples.  Let us also take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves on the road to Rio:  the Oslo Conference on Financing Energy Access for the Poor; the Bonn Conference on the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus; the World Future Energy Summit.  All will help to flesh out the agenda and build momentum for the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All in 2012.

But let us start by taking action today.  I call on all of you to help to form partnerships and align with our mission to ensure Sustainable Energy for All.  The business community is a central United Nations partner.  Together we can achieve this most important objective for our common sustainable future.  I thank you all for being here and wish you a most productive meeting.  On behalf of the Secretary-General, thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.