New York — Over 1,000 participants from government, business, international organizations and civil society groups gathered today at United Nations Headquarters to kick off a three-day forum designed to mobilize investment and action to realize the goal of ensuring sustainable energy for all.
The first annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum will help build towards the UN Climate Change Summit to be convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September. It will also feature the launch tomorrow of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024), with a focus on energy for women and children's health during the initial two years.
"The Forum is shaping up to be a major stepping stone, where we can collectively assess the results of our commitments, spur new efforts and together chart a way forward to achieve our objectives," says Kandeh Yumkella, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and CEO of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.
The Sustainable Energy for All initiative was launched by the Secretary-General in 2011 with three global targets: to ensure universal access to modern energy services; double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030.
At the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), businesses, investors and others committed billions of dollars towards these objectives. The Forum will assess results thus far from these commitments towards targets on energy access, efficiency and renewables, as well as mobilize further action.
Currently, 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity, and 2.6 billion use traditional fuels for cooking and heating, causing the premature deaths of 4.3 million people each year, mostly women and children, from the effects of indoor smoke.
Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, told the opening of the Forum that young people can be a driving force in the field of sustainable energy. He cited the examples of youth involved with biomass initiatives in India; young people who developed a ground-breaking way to bring light to the Kibera slum in Kenya; and students at a university in Uganda who developed and successfully tested the nation's first electric car.
"I urge you to think about young people in this process and to see we can harness the talents of young people in making our planet more sustainable," he said.