The Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024) strategy plans to provide universal access to modern energy services, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and share renewable energy globally.

Announcing the launch in New York yesterday, Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative Kandeh Yumkella called on the private sector to innovate and invest in order to help reach the initiative’s three objectives by 2030.

“The speed and scale of interventions we need to transform our current energy system and ensure shared prosperity lie in the private sector,” he said.

The UN says that currently, one in five people live without access to electricity. Almost 40% of the world’s population rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook food, leading to nearly two million deaths a year – mostly women and children – from lung disease caused by toxic smoke in their homes.

The initiative stresses that finding ways to address this energy poverty while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change is a crucial global challenge.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, increased social equity and a healthy environment. Sustainable development is not possible without sustainable energy.

The decade long plan builds on Ki-moon’s original Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which he launched in 2011.

According to the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), the share of renewable energy in world electricity generation continued its steady climb in 2013, despite a 14% drop in investments.

UNEP Under-Secretary-General and executive director Achim Steiner said: “The fact that renewable energy is gaining a bigger share of overall generation globally is encouraging. To support this further, we must re-evaluate investment priorities, shift incentives, build capacity and improve governance structures”.

According to the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014 report, the investment drop, amounting to $35.1bn, was due to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems and to policy uncertainty in many countries, which also depressed fossil fuel generation investments.

Globally, renewables – excluding large hydro – accounted for 43.6% of newly installed generating capacity in 2013, the report claims.

The UN says that without renewables, world energy-related CO2 emissions would have been an estimated 1.2 gigatons higher last year. This would have increased by about 12% the gap between where emissions are heading and where they need to be in 2020 if the world is to have a realistic prospect of staying under a two degree Centigrade temperature rise.

Steiner said: “While some may point to the fact that overall investment in renewables fell in 2013, the drop masks the many positive signals of a dynamic market that is fast evolving and maturing.

He added that “this should give governments the confidence to forge a new robust climate agreement to cut emissions at the 2015 climate change conference in Paris.”

World leaders will be meeting in Paris in 2015 with the aim of agreeing a binding and universal agreement on climate.

Leigh Stringer

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