Ban Ki-moon

By Ban Ki-moon

12 January 2012 – From The New York Times: As a child growing up during the Korean War, I studied by candlelight. Electric conveniences such as refrigerators and fans were largely unknown. Yet within my lifetime, that reality changed utterly. Easy access to energy opened abundant new possibilities for my family and my nation.

Energy transforms lives, businesses and economies. And it transforms our planet –its climate, natural resources and ecosystems.

There can be no development without energy. Today we have an opportunity to turn on the heat and lights for every household in the world, however poor, even as we turn down the global thermostat. The key is to provide sustainable energy for all.

To succeed, we need everyone at the table –governments, the private sector and civil society – all working together to accomplish what none can do alone.

The United Nations is well-placed to convene this broad swathe of actors and forge common cause between them. That is why I have established our new initiative, Sustainable Energy for All. Our mission: to galvanise immediate action that can deliver real results for people and the planet.

This is the message I will bring to the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi starting Monday. As I see it, we face two urgent energy challenges.

The first is that one in five people on the planet lacks access to electricity. Twice as many, almost 3 billion, use wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook meals and heat homes, exposing themselves and their families to harmful smoke and fumes. This energy poverty is devastating to human development.

The second challenge is climate change. Greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels contribute directly to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere, with all the attendant consequences: a rising incidence of extreme weather and natural disasters that jeopardise lives, livelihoods and our children’s future.

Sustainable energy for all by 2030 is an enormous challenge. But it is achievable. My vision is for a world with universal energy access coupled with significantly improved rates of energy efficiency and a doubling of renewable energy in our mix of fuel sources.

The obstacles are not so much technical as human. We need to raise sustainable energy to the top of the global agenda and focus our attention, ingenuity, resources, and investments to make it a reality.

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Ban Ki-moon is Secretary General of the United Nations.