Press Conference by Secretary-General to Present Report of His Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change

28 April 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Secretary-General to Present Report


of His Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change


A global effort to scale up investment in clean, efficient energy and bring affordable energy services to the 1.6 billion people worldwide currently lacking them would go a long way towards stopping climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“The decisions we make today on our energy future will have a profound impact on the global climate, on sustainable development, on economic growth and on global security,” Mr. Ban said this morning at a Headquarters press conference to present the report of his Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change.

Calling for an urgent overhaul of the global energy system, Secretary-General Ban said that, to make the green revolution a reality, Governments must create a predictable long-term, investment-friendly policy environment.  Public and private partners alike must bolster spending on research and development in renewable energy, as well as on green-energy technologies.  United Nations entities must better coordinate their efforts, amid efforts to develop and strengthen institutional and human capacity.  “These are ambitious goals, but I think they are achievable and they are necessary,” the Secretary-General said.  Energy would be high on the agenda of the MDG Review Summit in September, he added.

The Advisory Group comprises policy, technical and business leaders from the United Nations, the World Bank, the private sector and research institutions.  Members accompanying the Secretary-General included Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); Helge Lund, Chief Executive Officer of Statoil; and Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Mr. Yumkella said that the report’s recommendations ‑‑ launching a global campaign in support of energy for sustainable development, bolstering climate finance, adopting national strategies for energy efficiency and access, and requiring United Nations and development agencies to provide incentives for low-carbon policies, among others ‑‑ were not controversial.  “They provide some building blocks of practical things that can be done as we push for the ultimate goal of having a good, binding deal on climate change,” he added.

Moreover, it was of crucial importance to addressing energy governance, energy geopolitics and energy security issues, he continued.  Proper management of the increasing amounts of oil and gas being discovered and extracted from very poor African countries like Mauritania, Chad, Niger and Sierra Leone was needed to ensure that the extractive industries benefited local populations, not just wealthy purchasing countries.  “It is not enough to just take energy out; we must also ensure that they can meet their energy needs to grow in the interest of global security.”

Mr. Lund said that a predictable, stable, long-term global investment framework was crucial to providing incentives and security for energy investment projects, which typically spanned 30 to 50 years.  Public-private partnerships must be scaled up to stimulate technology and innovation, which was essential to spurring the development of renewable energy and reducing hydrocarbon emissions.  The climate debate often focused on the most expensive, complex initiatives, he pointed out, adding that it should really emphasize more readily available and efficient energy sources like gas.

Echoing those concerns, Mr. Steiner said that in Kenya, which housed UNEP’s headquarters, 80 per cent of the population lacked access to electricity despite a century of modern grid electricity-based development.  However, Kenya had the potential to triple its energy-generating capacity in approximately a decade in such a way as to make it one of the world’s first zero-carbon electricity-producing nations, he added, noting that Kenya was now developing alternative energy sources through investment-friendly legislative change.  Within a year of amending the Energy Act to introduce a feeding tariff, investors had already built the largest wind power farm in Africa, he said.

He noted that solar power was increasingly used to generate household electricity in many areas, a method that could be expanded to rural villages in a few years, said Mr. Steiner, citing other positive examples of energy efficiency.  Germany now derived one fifth of all its energy from renewable sources, and earlier this year, the Government of Indonesia had decided to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels ‑‑ a move that would change the country’s energy matrix.  Such initiatives should be mainstreamed and scaled up, and the United Nations had a central role in that regard, he said.

According to the report, it was possible to provide universal access to modern energy services by 2030 without significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions, by scaling up renewable energy and other low-emission technologies.  That was particularly important considering the rapid rise in demand for energy in developing countries and the growth of emissions, largely caused by energy services in the developed world.  The report also calls for a 40 per cent reduction ‑‑ or 2.5 per cent annually ‑‑ in global energy intensity by 2030 ‑‑ nearly double the historic rate.

“Without electricity, you cannot do anything in this world,” Secretary-General Ban said, emphasizing that the international community could not afford to turn a blind eye to the plight of the 2 billion to 3 billion people around the world forced to make due with firewood, peat or dung for energy.  The lack of electricity affected people’s health and their children’s education, keeping them trapped in poverty.  Reversing that trend was crucial for sustainable development.

Mr. Yumkella agreed with that assessment, saying that the way to simultaneously improve the lot of the poorest of the poor and tackle climate change was to transition to a low-carbon economy.  Advisory Group members estimated that achieving universal access to basic energy by 2030 would require $30 billion to $40 billion annually in investment.  Of that total, $15 billion could be in the form of grants to cover capital investment and capacity-building in least developed countries, but the lion’s share must come from the private sector, he said.

According to the report, achieving energy efficiency by 2030 would require annual investments of $30 billion to $35 billion for low-income countries and $140 billion to $170 billion for middle-income countries.

Asked about Statoil’s efforts to change its investment patterns in line with the Advisory Group’s goals, Mr. Lund said that over the last few years the firm had factored the cost of carbon dioxide into its investment decisions.  Moreover, Norway’s carbon dioxide tax gave Statoil and other local oil and gas companies an incentive to invest in clean technologies that reduced carbon dioxide emissions.  As a result, the country’s oil and gas production was 60 per cent more carbon-dioxide-efficient than the world average.

Concerning the Advisory Group’s relationship with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Mr. Yumkella said the two worked together closely, but the Advisory Group’s work went beyond renewable energy to focus on other ways to create a low-carbon energy system.

A correspondent asked about the feasibility of receiving the $30 billion pledged by developed countries during the December Copenhagen Climate Conference as “fast-start funding” to help developing nations adapt to climate change, considering that carbon markets were currently in a state of flux.

Mr. Steiner replied that action on the Advisory Group’s agenda was not premised on carbon funding.  However, the United Nations was working with many Governments to ensure that, in the next few weeks, such commitments were forthcoming and traceable.  “That will be the real litmus test of the Copenhagen mood in moving forward,” he said, expressing confidence that much of the funding would be disbursed quickly, and dismissing claims that Governments were abandoning the Copenhagen goals.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.