Tom Wallace reports on the Sustainable Energy For All Initiative’s high-level event on global energy access, which took place this week.
At the moment, nearly half of sub-Saharan Africa’s population will remain without electricity until 2030. However, yesterday United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that we can’t achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) without increasing energy access:
“Energy powers growth and opportunities….it makes all other development goals possible.”
Photo credit: UN
Ban Ki-moon’s comments, which South African Minister of Energy Elizabeth Dipuo Peters and Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach agreed with, were not said in isolation but as part of an emerging consensus from global leaders. Last week World Bank President Jim Yong Kim made similar comments:
“We have to be sure that the poorest countries have energy. They need energy in order to grow and lift their people out of poverty.”
Director General of UNIDO Dr Kandeh Yumkella said:
“Energy access is not about theory or politics but [energy access is] about life and death.”
But why are all these leaders saying this? Well the simple fact is energy access is central to human development. We cannot reduce maternal mortality and child deaths when hospitals don’t have the electricity to power life-saving medical equipment or fridges to store vaccines. Children can’t get a decent education when they don’t have decent evening lighting to read and study from. Decent job creation – something which Africans often prioritize above all other issues – cannot be dramatically scaled up when a lack of electricity limits what job opportunities are actually available.
The main problem is that the current rate of increasing energy access is too slow – which in turn is dramatically limiting poverty reduction. It is for this reason that these leaders are publically drawing attention to the fact that energy access is crucial for development.
However, it is not just through the post-2015 process that action can be taken to support the scaling-up of increasing energy access. The above quoted comments from the Secretary General and Dr. Yumkella were made at a high level event on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL). This initiative seeks to spur efforts and support countries in their efforts to achieve three goals, all by 2030
-Provide universal energy access
-Double the share of renewables in the energy mix
-Double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency
Here at ONE we are looking at how governments can support the SE4ALL initiative as well as other opportunities to help scale up modern energy access in Africa. However, we must make sure that people are aware of the importance of modern energy access to development. The more people who are aware, the more likely they are to support future efforts to increase basic modern access to the poorest.
One thing YOU can do to support this effort is to share ONE’s Policy Brief on the importance of energy access – check it out here – and pass it on to others.