News

UN Secretary-General Presents Vision Statement on “Sustainable Energy for All,” Announces Membership of High-Level Group

1 November 2011: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formally launched his High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) and the related SE4ALL initiative, presenting his Vision Statement on the initiative and announcing the membership of the High-level Group. The Group will be responsible for mobilizing action by all stakeholders on energy access and energy poverty.

Secretary-General Ban's "Vision Statement" for the initiative sets three broad goals for 2030: ensuring universal access to modern energy services; doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix. Ban said that enabling access to affordable energy is both a humanitarian question and a way to alleviate current economic stresses, by helping to “reduce poverty, drive economic dynamism and reduce risks of climate change.”

The Vision Statement notes a number of barriers to overcoming these goals and enabling universal access, including: path dependencies in energy infrastructure and institutions; financial obstacles, including up-front initial costs of clean energy technologies, and difficulty in finding sources of financing; prices and regulatory policies and practices hindering renewables uptake such as tariffs on renewables and subsidies for fossil fuels; and finally, business models that are based on long-standing monopolistic energy sectors. Overcoming these barriers, the Statement notes, will require: leadership and commitment; stable policy and regulatory frameworks; financing for the energy transformation; strengthened capacity; technological innovation; and communication and awareness.

The High-Level Group, which was organized in the run-up to the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All (2012) and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), is made up of 46 global leaders from business, finance, government and civil society. Ban said the group has been tasked specifically “to catalyze partnerships, commitments and action – in corporate board rooms, in government ministries, and on the ground in thousands of local communities.” Additionally, the Group is to prepare an action agenda to support Ban's Vision Statement. Commitments and partnerships resulting from the initiative will be announced at Rio+20.

Co-Charing the group are Kandeh Yumkella, Chair of UN-Energy and Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and Charles Holliday, Chairman of Bank of America. A 12-member Technical Group has been established to advise the High-level Group.

Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, said the majority of the Group is made up of private sector actors, reflecting that the “the vast majority of the money and dynamism that would be needed would come from the energy sector itself.” Yumkella indicated his gratitude that not only had many political and business leaders signed on to the Initiative, but that they are willing to share best practices, mobilize support and some have already offered to host meetings in their respective regions, with many members of the Group having called sustainable energy access “the issue of the century.” [UN Press Release] [Vision Statement] [Vision Statement as UN General Assembly Document] [Members of High-Level Group] [Webcast of SE4ALL Press Conference] [Webcast of SE4ALL Briefing announcing membership of High-Level Group and Vision Statement] [Previous IISD RS Story on SE4ALL Initiative] [SE4ALL Website]