Abu Dhabi

17 January 2011

Remarks to Young Future Energy Leaders

Ban Ki-moon

I am always pleased to have the opportunity to talk to the young leaders of tomorrow.

I thank the organizers of this Summit for including a special programme for you.

And I thank you for coming here to learn about the world's energy challenges -- and about the promising new solutions that are rapidly becoming available.

I saw some of them earlier today. I must say, I am impressed. You might even say I am energized!

We are on the brink of an exciting, sustainable future.

To get there we will need scientists and engineers, business people and policy makers who are passionate about using the Earth's resources responsibly.

People who recognize that our air, water and land are our most precious assets.

People who understand the central role of clean energy in mitigating climate change and powering green economic growth, in defeating poverty and empowering women, in improving global health and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

People like you.

We need to get serious about sustainable development – all of us.

That is why, I established a High-level Panel on Global Sustainability last year to connect the dots among the key global challenges of poverty, climate change, water, food, and energy security.

I have asked the Panel members to think big. To be bold. To make recommendations that do not shy away from sensitive matters or ambitious proposals.

Energy solutions will play a big role in combating climate change, in relieving poverty, and in laying the foundations for sustainable prosperity for all.

I imagine most of you have electricity at home and think of it as something absolutely normal.

Yet, almost half your fellow humans have little or no access to modern energy -- for lighting or cooking, for doing homework or running a small business.

Some 3 billion people still rely on traditional biomass fuels and coal. As a result, 2 million people every year die because of indoor air pollution -- that is nearly double the deaths we see worldwide from malaria. Most of them are women and children.

This is unacceptable and it is avoidable. It is time to close the global access gap.

Let us share the gifts of science and technology with people throughout the developing world. Let us achieve the goal of universal access to clean, affordable energy by 2030.

Every household should have lights to read by, a way of cooking food that does not damage health, and telephones to reach family, neighbours and emergency help.

When people have electricity they suffer fewer health problems, their children do better at school, their opportunities increase. They gain the gift of hope.

The equation is very simple. Access to energy improves lives and it can save lives, millions of lives each year.

The obstacles are not technical.

We know how to build modern energy systems and meet energy demand efficiently.

We have an array of grid-based and off-grid solutions.

What we need is focused and sustained political commitment at the highest level ... new models and incentives that will scale up and deliver today's technical solutions and promote the breakthroughs of tomorrow.

We need increased international collaboration and the engagement of all levels of society.

These are among the things I have asked my Sustainability Panel to address.

They will report back to me at the end of this year, with their findings feeding into preparations for next year's Rio 2012 Earth Summit, as well as the ongoing climate change negotiations.

Next year will mark twenty years since world leaders agreed on Agenda 21, our blueprint for sustainable development.

They put sustainable development on the global map. We must use Rio+ 20 to take new, decisive steps -- and place the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development at the centre of policy-making.

Two decades is a lifetime for many of you. Let us not wait another lifetime to realize the dream.

You young future energy leaders can make a difference. Starting today.

You have the talent and enthusiasm to turn vision into reality.

Whatever your chosen career path, I encourage you to think sustainability.

And let your thinking start at home. In your own lives and among your families, friends and communities.

Buy green products, use public transport , commit to recycling.

Try to develop habits that will make our world cleaner and safer – and that will influence others to do the same.

This is something I am encouraging at the United Nations.

What we demand of others, we must do ourselves.

We have embarked on a journey whose final destination is climate neutrality and an environmentally friendly UN.

We are currently in the middle of renovating UN headquarters in New York to make it a model of green efficiency.

We have a Cool UN initiative that reduces summer energy use and are working to promote paperless information management.

And we are greening our peacekeeping operations – which account for more than half of all UN greenhouse gas emissions.

We are not alone in such efforts. Businesses and governments around the world are heeding the call of sustainability.

We can witness one such example here.

A government that has built its economy on oil is investing in a low-carbon clean energy future

I commend the government of Abu Dhabi for its Masdar Initiative.

Masdar City, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and all the related projects in this bold experiment will provide lessons and much food for thought for all who are working on sustainable development and energy solutions.

The issues that confront us demand transformative change, and it is heartening to see this government's efforts to create that change.

I hope you leave here determined to become part of it.

The United Nations stands ready to support you to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that lie before us.

Thank you.