Giving everyone on the planet access to electricity and other modern energy can and must be achieved earlier than a target date of 2030, because it is vital both to improve people’s lives and curb climate change, said the official leading the push.
Rachel Kyte, who took over this month as CEO of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative set up by the U.N. secretary-general, said the numbers are now being crunched to work out how soon the goal of universal access could be met.
The answer is likely to be somewhere in the early 2020s, given the right circumstances, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
There are still around 1 billion people in the world without access to electricity, and nearly 3 billion who cook using polluting fuels such as kerosene, wood and dung.
Beating the 2030 deadline to end that energy poverty – a goal enshrined in the new Sustainable Development Goals agreed in September – is essential to ensure economic growth in the future does not leave some people out, Kyte said.
Climate-changing emissions also need to be reduced faster than governments have pledged in order to keep people safe from the worst impacts of global warming. That means energy must be provided from renewable sources as far as possible, she added.
“I personally think it is outrageous that with all of the capabilities we have, we’ve got women who have the choice of imperilling their children’s health or eating because they have no alternative but unclean cooking. Or the entrepreneur that can’t employ any more people because his power is one hour on, six hours off,” she said in a telephone interview.
“So yes, we’re going to get this done earlier,” vowed the former World Bank special envoy for climate change.
The SE4ALL initiative, now in the process of becoming an international non-profit organisation, has three goals to be met by 2030: providing 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.
Kyte said there is urgency around these aims, particularly in the wake of December’s Paris climate change agreement, which commits the world to keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.
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