World’s Poorest Should Not Pay Price for ‘Green’ Economy, Secretary-General Tells Davos Energy Forum, Urging ‘Careful’ Phase-out of Inefficient Fuel Subsidies

27 January 2012

World’s Poorest Should Not Pay Price for ‘Green’ Economy, Secretary-General Tells Davos Energy Forum, Urging ‘Careful’ Phase-out of Inefficient Fuel Subsidies

27 January 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

World’s Poorest Should Not Pay Price for ‘Green’ Economy, Secretary-General Tells


Davos Energy Forum, Urging ‘Careful’ Phase-out of Inefficient Fuel Subsidies


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the panel discussion on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, in Davos, Switzerland, on 27 January:

It is a great honour for me to open this very important forum on sustainable energy.

Sustainable energy is a key priority, and a top priority for the United Nations and myself as Secretary-General, because it is central to everything we do and central to everything we want to achieve.  By providing sustainable energy for all, we can revitalize economic growth, protect this Planet Earth, protect the environment and spread the benefits of development more equitably.  This can be called a triple win.

As a boy, as I was growing up in Korea after the devastation of the Korean War, I studied by the light of a tiny oil lamp.  Even until I became a freshman in college, I had to depend on this tiny oil lamp.  I helped my mother stoke the cooking fire.  We didn’t have a clinic with refrigerated medicines in my village.  And of course, we had no any conveniences like a refrigerator or fans or air conditioning.

But [in] my country, as it developed economically, we overcame energy poverty.  I want, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, every girl and boy around the world to have access to electricity and access to decent electricity and energy.  I do not want to see them repeat the same things which I did 50 or 60 years ago.  We must also reduce the risks of climate change by utilizing cleaner, more efficient energy.

Our Sustainable Energy for All Initiative is ambitious, but achievable.  We have three objectives to be achieved by 2030:  the first objective — this is most important — [is] that we should provide energy to all the people around the world; second, we should double energy efficiency by 2030; and thirdly, we should double the rate of use of renewable energy in the global energy mix.  Currently, the rate is around 16 or 17 per cent globally.  We have to lift this up to at least 30 per cent by 2030.

This will require a massive mobilization of all partners: the private sector, finance, Governments, international organizations, philanthropists and civil societies.  We have developed an action agenda and hope that a full range of actors will be prepared to announce their commitments at the “Rio+20” summit meeting in June this year.

Technologies exist and many more are on the way, owing to very smart investments by many visionary leaders and CEOs and Governments.  The real issue is political: Governments need to make sustainable energy a top priority.  That is why the United Nations General Assembly has made for [the] coming five years sustainable energy a top priority.  And they should put [it] above all, by putting in place the right policies and incentives.

Countries with the strongest policies tend to attract the most private investment.  Private investment is critical.  We are working actively with global CEOs and investors to expand energy access, improve efficiency and ramp up renewables.  Our initiative will actively work with the private sector to generate a clean energy revolution.

Developing countries, especially the least developed, stand to benefit most.  Access to modern energy will improve productivity, public health, and education.  It can also enable countries to leapfrog the energy systems of the past.  We need to pay special attention to Africa, which has great potential for renewables.

Science and economics tell us we need to make the transition to clean energy as quickly as possible.  Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies is an important part of that equation, and was endorsed by the G-20 Summit meeting.  But we must do so in a careful, gradual manner.  We cannot build a sustainable, green economy on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable people.

And of course, we are all concerned about corruption in the exploitation of natural resources.  That is why accountability is a core principle of my initiative.  All commitments will be transparent and monitored.

Sustainable energy for all is not an abstract dream; it is a real possibility, and indeed a necessity, if we are to build the future we want.

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