Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability
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2011 2nd Issue: AGECC: Energy for a Sustainable Future

Time: Aug. 15, 2011      Source: IEEPA

THE IMPORTANCE OF ENERGY

Energy is at the heart of most critical economic, environmental and developmental issues facing the world today. Clean, efficient, affordable and reliable energy services are indispensable for global prosperity. Developing countries in particular need to expand access to reliable and modern energy services if they are to reduce poverty and improve the health of their citizens, while at the same time increasing productivity, enhancing competitiveness and promoting economic growth. Current energy systems are inadequate to meet the needs of the world¡¯s poor and are jeopardizing the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For instance, in the absence of reliable energy services, neither health clinics nor schools can function properly. Access to clean water and sanitation is constrained without effective pumping capacity. Food security is adversely affected, often with devastating impact on vulnerable populations. Worldwide, approximately 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating,1 and about 1.5 billion have no access to electricity. Up to a billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks. The ¡°energy-poor¡± suffer the health consequences of inefficient combustion of solid fuels in inadequately ventilated buildings, as well as the economic consequences of insufficient power for productive income-generating activities and for other basic services such as health and education. In particular, women and girls in the developing world are disproportionately

affected in this regard.

A well-performing energy system that improves efficient access to modern forms of energy would strengthen the opportunities for the poorest few billion people on the planet to escape the worst impacts of poverty. Such a system is also essential for meeting wider development objectives. Economic growth goes hand in hand with increased access to modern energy services, especially in low- and middle-income countries transitioning through the phase of accelerated industrial development. A World Bank study3 indicates that countries with underperforming energy systems may lose up to 1-2 per cent of growth potential annually as a result of electric

power outages, over-investment in backup electricity generators, energy subsidies and losses, and inefficient use of scarce energy resources.

At the global level, the energy system ¨C supply, transformation, delivery and use ¨C is the dominant contributor to climate change, representing around 60 per cent of total current greenhouse gas

(GHG) emissions. Current patterns of energy production and consumption are unsustainable and threaten the environment on both local and global scales. Emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are major contributors to the unpredictable effects of climate change, and to urban air pollution and acidification of land and water. Reducing the carbon intensity of energy ¨C that is, the amount of carbon4 emitted per unit of energy consumed ¨C is a key objective in reaching long-term

climate goals. As long as the primary energy mix is biased towards fossil fuels, this would be difficult to achieve with currently available fossil fuel-based energy technologies. Given that the world economy is expected to double in size over the next twenty years, the world¡¯s consumption

of energy will also increase significantly if energy supply, conversion and use continue to be inefficient. Energy system design, providing stronger incentives for reduced GHG emissions in supply and increased end-use efficiency, will therefore be critical for reducing the risk of

irreversible, catastrophic climate change.

It is within this context that the UN Secretary-General¡¯s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) was convened to address the dual challenges of meeting the world¡¯s energy needs for development while contributing to a reduction in GHGs. AGECC carried out this task in a rapidly changing environment in which energy was often a key factor: the sensitivity of the global economy to energy price spikes; increased competition for scarce natural resources; and the need to accelerate progress towards achievement of the MDGs. The world¡¯s response to

climate change will affect each of these issues. Pursuant to the Copenhagen Accord promulgated at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in December 2009, the Secretary-General has established a High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing. It is hoped that this

report will be helpful to that and other similar initiatives.

Please log on for more details:

http://www.un.org/wcm/webdav/site/climatechange/shared/Documents/AGECC%20summary%20report[1].pdf

Source: AGECC

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