U.N. announces billions in support for sustainability programs

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday announced that more than 100 commitments and actions have been already mobilized in support of the U.N.’s global sustainable energy initiative. He was speaking at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Achieving sustainable energy for all is not only possible, but necessary – it is the golden thread that connects development, social inclusion and environmental protection,” Ban said at a press conference.

Launched in September 2011, the Sustainable Energy for All initiative brings together governments, businesses and civil society groups in an unprecedented effort to help make the world’s energy systems more accessible, efficient and cleaner, said the U.N.. It is designed to catalyze global action in support of three, interlinked and complimentary objectives, all to be achieved by 2030 – ensure universal access to modern energy services, double the global rate of improvement of energy efficiency, and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

“This initiative is already mobilizing significant action from all sectors of society. Working together, we can provide solutions that drive economic growth, expand equity and reduce the risks of climate change,” Ban said.

The International Energy Agency estimates that 1.3 billion people – one in five globally – lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business. Twice that number – nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population – rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook food, resulting in toxic smoke that causes lung disease and death, said the U.N.

More than 40,000 people – including heads of state and government, parliamentarians, mayors, U.N. officials, business and civil society leaders – are attending Rio+20, which ends today The conferencet seeks to shape new policies to promote global prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection, according to the U.N..

“Sustainable Energy for All provides a powerful model for the future,” Ban said. “The U.N. is bringing all key stakeholders to the table to work in common cause for the common good. This initiative shows the power of partnership and ability of the United Nations to spearhead transformational change.”

Among the commitments and actions agreed upon by
governments, Ghana, one of the first countries to join the initiative, has developed a national energy action plan to support capacity-development and innovative financing mechanisms. Countries initiating or completing similar assessments include Bangladesh, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, Tajikistan, Uruguay and Vietnam. Meanwhile, Brazil, the host country for Rio+20, has committed to investing a further $4.3 billion to achieve universal energy access at a national level by 2014.

Among the commitments and actions agreed upon by private sector corporations, small and medium-scale enterprises, Microsoft has committed to going carbon neutral and will be rolling out an internal carbon fee that will apply to Microsoft’s business operations in over 100 countries. Italian energy company Eni has earmarked approximately $5 billion to achieve its gas flaring and carbon intensity reduction goals and the Renault-Nissan Alliance has committed approximately $5 billion to commercialize affordable zero-emission vehicles.

Among the commitments and actions agreed upon by financial institutions, donors and development banks, the Bank of America has set a 10-year $50 billion environmental business goal, while the World Bank Group has committed to doubling the leverage of its energy portfolio by mobilizing private, donor and public contributions to World Bank-supported projects, as well as supportive policies to expand energy access, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Among the commitments and actions agreed upon by non-governmental organizations, artists, academia, and individuals, members of the rock band Linkin Park have launched a campaign urging world leaders at Rio+20 to end energy poverty, while India’s Energy and Resources Institute has committed to expanding lighting services to households in several developing countries, using solar and other clean energy technologies, by 2018. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, along with 40 other professional associations, has pledged to mobilize their two million members worldwide in support of the initiative.

Since the Sustainable Energy for All initiative’s launch last year, more than 50 governments from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the small islands developing states have engaged with the initiative and are developing energy plans and programs. The majority are from developing countries that have initiated or completed energy sector assessments and gap analyses, thus laying the groundwork to scale up action in priority areas, undertake strategic reforms where needed, and attract new investments and financial support.

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