The undersigned agencies would like to bring the following urgent issues to the attention of the United Nations Secretary General’s High Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All and of governments who can support effective sustainable outcomes for people living in poverty and speed the transition towards a zero-carbon global energy sector.
UN Goals for Sustainable Energy for All by 2030:
Achieving universal access to modern energy services;
Doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and
- Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global mix
Increased access to clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy is essential for poverty reduction. For this reason we strongly support the aspirations of the UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) and welcome the increased political attention that this Initiative brings to this issue.
However, we also note that the goals as they currently stand are inadequate to achieve the level of change required to tackle both energy poverty and dangerous climate change. In light of this, we call on the Panel to view the current SE4All goals as a starting point for the higher levels of ambition needed to bring about effective change.
Universal access: The UN Year of SE4All must prioritise universal access and the eradication of energy poverty. This must focus on access to the full range of energy services, and recognise that decentralised systems with community participation are often the least-cost and most effective way to deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy. Successful development requires access programmes to be integrated with wider development strategies and tailored to suit local needs and realities.
Delivering climate targets:
The three goals must be commensurate with the agreed goal of keeping the global temperature rise as far below 2 degrees celcius as possible, recognising that even this agreed limit is not safe for many countries and people in the developing world.
New commitments: SE4All should deliver additional benefits, including financing, rather than simply serving as an umbrella for existing projects. New SE4All commitments made from 2012 should clearly demonstrate how they will deliver its objectives through an accountability framework with effective and transparent monitoring and evaluation (see below).
International leadership and support: Poor countries and the world’s poorest people will need substantial assistance to achieve universal energy access from clean, safe, reliable and affordable sources, as well as moving their energy sectors away from dirty fossil fuels. Industrialised countries must lead by providing poor countries with the appropriate finance, technology and capacity building to deliver local development within the framework of an ambitious SE4All Initiative, as well as ensuring that their own energy sectors are on track to be zero-carbon by 2050.
To date, the initiative has not provided clear definitions of its objectives and implementation plan.
To be successful, the initiative needs to address:
Definitions of access
- Universal access must be defined in terms of access to clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy services with demonstrable development benefits, measured in terms of achievement of minimum standards for each of the principal energy services people need (a total energy approach including lighting, cooking, water heating, space heating, cooling, information and communications and small, medium and micro enterprises). Simple power supply metrics are insufficient.
Technology neutral policy and safeguards
- SE4All must ensure the selection of technology to deliver the three goals adheres to clear social and environmental criteria that protect people and ecosystems from negative impacts. In particular, we would be extremely concerned over the inclusion of large scale hydro power and industrial biofuels in the definition of sustainable energy. Technologies should be locally appropriate and reflect the needs of poor people at household, enterprise and community level. The default option should be towards clean, sustainable solutions, allowing poor countries and communities to leapfrog dirty development pathways.
Civil society participation
- To date, there has been very limited engagement of civil society in outreach around SE4All, in particular in the global South. This has greatly weakened the legitimacy of the initiative as well as undermining the credibility of proposed projects and the possibility of their success. If the Initiative is to gain widespread support, global civil society needs to be fully consulted through a clear and accountable process which recognises Rio Principle 10, that ‘environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level’. Civil society should play an active role in all stages of policy design as well as implementation, especially within priority countries. Civil society should also be fully supported in devising and implementing its own scalable projects to deliver an ambitious SE4All initiative.
National targets and plans
While global energy access targets are needed to ensure global cooperation, further detail at a national level will ensure successful implementation. SE4All should give financial and non-financial support to governments who wish to engage to formulate clear, executable plans to deliver on nationally-appropriate short- and mid-term targets, developed through multistakeholder processes with a focus on local, people-centred development outcomes.
- To ensure effective delivery, SE4All needs to identify an appropriate, inclusive forum to coordinate and review progress towards achieving energy access for poor people. SE4All also needs to have defined channels of accountability, based on clear progress indicators and a clear and transparent process of monitoring and evaluation. Indicators must recognise that energy access does not simply mean ‘number of homes electrified’ or ‘number of cookstoves distributed’, and should be formulated from the knowledge and expertise of those on the ground, including energy users, local communities and energy access practitioners.
We trust that the Secretary General, the High Level Panel and supportive governments will take our comments in the constructive spirit they are intended, with the aim that SE4All becomes a truly transformational initiative meeting the urgent challenges of energy poverty and climate change.