Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

21 June 2012

Secretary-General's remarks at Side Event on "Energy, Gender and Economic Growth" [as prepared for delivery]

I am deeply honoured to be here.

I thank all the participants.

Let me say a special word about Dr. Brundtland.

Long before Rio+20 … even before the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, Dr. Brundtland was a global leader on the environment.

The World Commission on Environment and Development will rightly go down in history as the Brundtland Commission.

Its seminal 1987 report, “Our Common Future,” gave us the conceptual breakthrough of sustainable development and led to the decision to hold the Earth Summit.

As if that was not enough, since then, Dr. Brundtland has been extremely active, most recently serving on the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

She was also UN Special Envoy for Climate Change. And before that, she led the World Health Organization for five years.

Dr. Brundtland’s path shows that you can work for sustainable development as a politician or as a physician … as an advocate or an international leader.

Dr. Brundtland says that when she first became prime minister, many Norwegians experienced culture shock. But by the next generation, children would ask their parents, “But can a man be prime minister?”

Attitudes are changing.

But in too many parts of the world, women still suffer terrible exclusion.

Energy poverty takes an especially heavy toll on women.

Most of the 3 billion people in the world who rely on wood, charcoal and dung for cooking are women.

Most of the nearly 2 million people each year who die from smoke caused by dangerous cooking, heating and lighting are women.

Too many women spend hours each day foraging for fuel.

In some cases, venturing too far puts them at risk of attack.

Just going out for firewood can expose a girl to rape.

Women face especially grave risks when they have to rely on a clinic that has no electricity. More than a quarter of a million health facilities in our world are dark at night.

As we know, a pregnant woman can go into labour at any time. Her survival should not depend on daylight.

That is why new initiatives like the solar suitcase are so valuable.

One Congolese doctor told us that in his village, the first night he received the solar suitcase he was able to save two women who were giving birth.

Energy saves lives and livelihoods. It is the golden thread weaving together the three strands of sustainable development: the economy, the environment and equity.

My Sustainable Energy for All initiative sets ambitious targets for 2030:   universal access to modern energy sources … a doubling of the global rate of energy efficiency … and a doubling of renewable energy.

This is critical to our larger campaign for sustainable development.

We cannot have the future we want without full equality for women.

Today, I call on everyone to help put the “power” in our drive to empower women.

Then they can help light our world.

Thank you.