Sustainable Energy for All a Priority for UN Secretary-General’s Second Term

New York, NY

September 11, 2011


Megan Rabbitt

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today laid out priorities that will guide his second 5-year term, naming among them extending energy’s reach in order to combat endemic poverty. Universal access to energy, improved efficiency and enhanced deployment of renewable sources are ambitious goals, and the Secretary-General is designing a Sustainable Energy for All initiative to make them achievable.


“As I see it, we have five imperatives — five generational opportunities to shape the world of tomorrow by the decisions we make today. The first and greatest of these is sustainable development — the imperative of the 21st century. Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth — these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all,” said the Secretary-General before the assembled world leaders in New York.”

“Energy is key — to our planet, to our way of life. That is why we have launched a pioneering new initiative, Sustainable Energy for All,” he stressed.

The Secretary-General had already announced on Tuesday the formation of a prestigious high-level group that will advise and guide the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. These leaders from global corporations, financial institutions, and foundations will join with UN agencies and member states to produce a comprehensive and concrete sustainable energy action agenda leading up to the Rio+20 conference next year.

The challenge before the high-level group is substantial. Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Be it jobs, security, climate change, food production or poverty, sustainable energy for all is essential for strengthening economies, protecting ecosystems and achieving equity.

In fact, more than 1.4 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, and 1 billion more only have intermittent access. Some 2.7 billion people – almost half of humanity – rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating.

Sustainable Energy for All will call for private sector and national commitments and attract global attention to the importance of energy for development and poverty alleviation. The goal is to meet three objectives by 2030:

• ensuring universal access to modern energy services;
• doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency;
• doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

The work toward these goals will be supplemented by a Technical Group and Practitioner Network with the expertise to provide strategic and informed solutions. The Practitioner Network is led by the UN Foundation, which is collaborating with UN-Energy to advance the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

The members of the High-level Group will be guided by co-chairs who together bring decades worth of international development and private sector experience. The High-level Group’s co-chairs are Kandeh Yumkella, Chair of UN-Energy and Director General of UNIDO and Chad Holliday, Chairman of the Board, Bank of America and former President of Dupont. Additional leadership will be provided by Timothy E. Wirth, President of the UN Foundation, who serves on the High-level Group.

Within months, the high-level group will release a multi-year action plan for how to achieve the initiative’s three goals of improving access, efficiency and use of renewable energy. In addition, the General Assembly has declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, during which various public-private collaborations will work to forge political commitments and raise crucial public awareness and financial resources needed to combat energy poverty.

The United Nations Foundation will support the work of UN-Energy, a coordinating group of 20 UN agencies. UN-Energy will play a central and supporting role in this effort, raising awareness of the scope of the challenge and the importance of re-thinking current global energy strategies.

“Every global challenge ultimately comes back to energy access. Without access to energy, educating children, empowering women, and improving health are all impossible. Energy is the driver of economic growth which is necessary for alleviating poverty. This initiative marks the first time in its history that the United Nations has tackled energy issues, and the UN Foundation is committed to seeing the goals realized,” explained Reid Detchon, Vice President of Energy and Climate at the UN Foundation.

About the United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Foundation, a public charity, was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. The UN Foundation builds and implements public/private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and works to broaden support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach. Through campaigns and partnerships, the organization connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The campaigns reduce child mortality, empower women and girls, create a new energy future, secure peace and human rights, and promote technology innovation to improve health outcomes. These solutions are helping the UN advance the eight global targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For more information, visit