Unfortunately, there is little denying the failure in international leadership at the UN Convention on Sustainable Development, otherwise known as Rio+20. In a world of rising inequality and unsustainable pressure on our planet’s natural resources — both of which are undermining economic growth and poverty alleviation — government leaders and civil society organizations alike have stated the Rio+20 outcomes lack a strong vision.
However, when leaders come together later today to endorse the final text, we must recognize that not everything was a failure. We must be sure to take the positives from Rio+20 and build upon them. For example: It is great news that the international community will recognize and endorse the right of everyone to clean water and sanitation facilities. Leaders will also commit to protect, and restore, the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems for present and future generations.
On energy –- a particular focus for ONE — governments will recognize the central importance of energy access to development; noting that access to these services are essential to social inclusion and gender equality. This recognition is a good step forward as the issue of energy access has been overlooked for too long by the international community.
The recognition is also supported by the announcement made yesterday by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that more than 100 commitments and actions have been already mobilized in support of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative. The commitments made by private sector companies, civil society organizations and governments seek to achieve universal energy access by 2030, as well as doubling the share of the renewables in the global mix and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
The commitments made as part of this announcement include more than 23 made by African nations. Additional notable commitments include:
- The African Development Bank investing $20 billion in energy by 2030,
- Businesses and investors committing more than $50 billion to the goals of SE4ALL,
- Brazil investing an additional $235 billion over 10 years in renewable energy,
- The European Union providing access to sustainable energy services to 500 million people by 2030, and
- d.Light Design committing to providing solar lamps to 30 million people in more than 40 countries by 2015.
ONE’s Global Policy Director Ben Leo, welcomed the commitments and the announcement. He said:
“A lack of access to clean, reliable and affordable energy is trapping millions in poverty and limiting growth and development. Yet despite the fact that we have the solutions that can increase energy access, until now, political leadership on this issue has been lacking. The announcement made today by the Secretary General is therefore very welcome, particularly because the commitments made to date under the SE4ALL initiative are expected to benefit more than 1 billion people.”
Of course, this is only the first step. It is essential the commitments made in Rio this week are turned into concrete action that delivers for African citizens and the world…. This will not be easy.
Governments must be held to account and donors, governments, businesses and civil society must work together. This will be of particular importance in providing clean, reliable and affordable energy access for all. No one group can do achieve this by itself and it is only through collaborative and inclusive action that we will see an end to the day when 7 out of 10 citizens in sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity. ONE will be working hard to ensure that this is the case.