Millions of lives can be saved by ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday stressed at the World Future Energy Summit taking place in the United Arab Emirates.
“Sustainable energy is the thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and our efforts to combat climate change,” Mr. Ban told industry leaders from around the world attending the week-long conference in Abu Dhabi.
Highlighting last year’s “landmark” global agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and on climate change at COP21 in December, the UN chief noted that for the first time, every country in the world pledged to act internationally and domestically to address climate change.
“The universality of these agreements, and their inclusive nature, mean that we have a clear way forward,” he said. “Now is the time for action. Governments, the private sector, regional and international organizations, must start working to implement the 17 ambitious Global Goals,” he said.
One of these Goals – SDG7 – aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. He explained that clean, sustainable energy will not only help safeguard the future of the planet – keeping temperature rise below the two degree Celsius goal – it will also directly save an estimated 4.3 million lives every year. That is the estimated number of people who die prematurely from pollution resulting from indoor cookstoves that use fire, coal, charcoal or animal waste.
“Most of these people are women and children, who spend their time near wood-burning stoves and open flames. It is women and girls who bear the brunt of collecting firewood and fuels – time-consuming activities which limit their work and education opportunities,” the UN chief warned.
He added that SDG7 is also at the heart of development, since more than one billion people in the world have no access to electricity.
“Achieving SDG7 well before 2030 will vastly improve our chances of achieving the Global Goals on food security, health care, education, employment, sustainable cities and more,” he declared. “We have made a good start. There has been remarkable progress on many fronts.”
The Secretary-General noted that a new generation of energy-efficient appliances is giving people access to the lighting, heating, communication and other tools that they need, while reminding all leaders and decision-makers at the Summit that emissions must be cut drastically and counterproductive subsidies must end.
“Governments and the private sector will need to align their decisions,” he insisted. “Every dollar of the trillions that will be spent on new infrastructure in the next 15 years must be invested in climate-friendly projects that will drive the growth of low-carbon goods and services.”
Ending his remarks, he underlined the important role women play in seeking sustainable solutions. “Women are often the primary managers of energy in their households and communities and so can be powerful agents of change in the transition to sustainable, clean, green energy.”
Later in the day, the Secretary-General spoke at the launch of “Abu Dhabi Action Day,” saying how inspired he was by presentations showcased at the Summit, especially those created by young people.
“I am so honoured and excited to see that all of you are part of a global push to do something even bigger than adopt a global agreement on climate change – namely to make it a reality.”