Energy and Development V

Sustainable Energy for All

We’ve been talking in this lecture about the challenges of energy poverty and how they relate to the challenges of poverty more generally. We’ve also discussed the imperative of combining the fight against poverty and the fight against uncontrolled climate change. These can’t be put in chronological sequence or prioritized that fighting poverty comes first and climate change comes later, because as I emphasized in the previous chapter, if climate change runs out of control, if we continue with the business-as-usual path, our hopes of even basic food security, much less an escape from poverty are going to be dashed.

I’ve emphasized therefore the importance of putting the poverty agenda within a context more generally of sustainable development. Fighting poverty is part of the larger cause of sustainable development.

And in this chapter I want to put it the other way, that fighting climate change also is part of that larger effort. To have success in 2015 in COP21 in Paris, we’re going to need success at the United Nations in September 2015 in adopting a set of sustainable development goals or SDGs, which will frame exactly that holistic approach in which fighting poverty, fighting for social inclusion of women and minorities and the poor, and fighting against uncontrolled climate change are all combined into an integrated and holistic framework. 2015 is indeed a period of extraordinarily interesting and complex negotiations.

851Remember, you’re going to be a delegate to the climate negotiations in the global online negotiation that will take place at the beginning of 2015. But let’s note that there are three big negotiations that need to be completed successfully in 2015 and each plays off of the other and depends on the success of the others. Paris we know comes at the end of the year. Before Paris comes the negotiation on sustainable development goals in 2015 in September at the United Nations.

And even before that, in July 2015, will come the first major summit, diplomatically for next year and that is the Conference on Financing for Sustainable Development which will take place in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. What is that conference about?

That conference is to help find the ways that poor countries can access electricity, the ways that we can help to finance the research, development and demonstration of new technologies for low-carbon energy. The way that we can help to compensate countries that experience significant climate losses, a principle that was agreed in COP19 in Warsaw, last year, that losses and damages from climate change should be compensated.

So we’ll have a conference on finance, we’ll have a conference on sustainable development in general and then we’ll have the COP21 in Paris at the end of 2015. I’m excited about sustainable development being the overarching framework. I think this is right. And I think that it is a proper intellectual framing of our interconnected challenges, but also a proper framing from the point of finding a way through the complexity that confronts us now. Of course the idea of sustainable development has been around for a quarter century. And I’m delighted to have an online course available for your viewing pleasure, The Age of Sustainable Development, to look at this concept in more detail. But here in chapter five of lecture eight I want to stress how the framing of sustainable development will help to shape the climate and energy discussions in the coming year and then of course in the years beyond.

Back in 2012 at the twentieth anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit, remember that the Earth Summit is where the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change was first adopted. On the twentieth anniversary the conferees looked at the results of the UNFCCC and of the other two big treaties that had been adopted at Rio, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification and they said, these are good documents, we still live by them, but we’re not getting the, the global buy-in, the political will, the public energy and commitment that’s needed really to implement these three treaties. And they looked at the quite different process of the Millennium Development Goals which are not legally binding; they’re not a treaty. They were adopted as a spirit of the world, as a commitment of the world, but not in a legally binding way back in September 2000, at the start of the new millennium. So in 2012 the conferees at the twentieth anniversary of the Earth Summit said, hmm, if those MDGs are, they’re working.

They’re drawing the world’s attention to the plight of extreme poverty and to the ways that we can address and solve and overcome extreme poverty. Why don’t we use a similar mechanism, not to replace the Framework Convention on Climate Change, not to undermine the treaties, but to complement the treaties by helping to bring the challenges of sustainable development more generally to the world’s attention. And they called on the U.N. General Assembly to adopt a concise set of sustainable development goals that would cover the three main dimensions of sustainable development.

Fighting poverty and promoting economic development, dimension one. Promoting social inclusion of women and minorities especially in insuring the human rights of all individuals, of access to public services as number two. And environmental sustainability of which controlling climate change is by far the most urgent as number three. And those three dimensions of sustainable development, they noted back in 2012 need to be girded by a fourth crucial dimension and that is good governance and global partnership. So in that spirit, the 2012 twentieth anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit passed the baton to the U.N. General Assembly and said, come up with a concise set of sustainable development goals that will incorporate the fight against poverty, the fight against climate change, and the other crucial aspects of sustainable development.

852I’m happy to say that the U.N. General Assembly took this challenge on fully and has now been in two years of intensive analysis and negotiation about the sustainable development goals. And there is a, an increasingly strong chance indeed that a concise set of SDGs will be adopted in September 2015, just a few months ahead of the Paris COP21. For a while it was thought this could conflict, this could make things complicated.

But I think by now the governments understand that the two processes are complementary. They’re not contradictory. And climate change will be part of both the sustainable development goals and the COP21, not that one will negotiate different targets and different ambitions, but rather within the sustainable development context the world will reconfirm its commitment to the framework convention and to the decisions that are to be taken in Paris to ensure that in the 15 years between 2016 and 2030 in which these new sustainable development goals are the world’s guideposts, climate change will be one of the headlines of that new global commitment.

So we are now in the middle of the process of adopting sustainable development goals and I think the process is working well for exactly the themes that I’ve been discussing in this eighth lecture. Recently the working group of the General Assembly has put out a provisional list of some of these sustainable development goals. And while I won’t go through the whole list, I want to highlight some of the main conclusions of the two years of negotiation that have been underway.

First, there is general agreement that goal number one of the SDGs, SDG  number one will be end poverty. End poverty in all its forms by the year 2030. And specifically in terms of measurement, what this means is that the World Bank’s poverty line which is a $1.25 per person per day for extreme poverty. That using that line we should be able to get to near zero in terms of the proportions of households still stuck below poverty from the roughly one billion people today under the World Bank poverty line to near zero. But helpfully, as with the Millennium Development Goals, these sustainable development goals will define ending extreme poverty not only income terms, but in many other forms as well. In terms of food security, health security, schooling for children, access to safe water and sanitation, access to modern energy services, these will all be part of the commitment to ensure that everybody’s basic needs are met by the world economy as of 2030, whether through markets or whether through government or other kinds of social help, the basic needs of everybody should be met and achieved by the year 2030.

Goal number two on this new list of the U.N. General Assembly open working group is to end hunger, to ensure food security. Now remember, as we just discussed, if climate change is running rampant; this is going to be an absolutely forlorn and failed ambition. We’re going to have to improve productivity of agriculture but at the same time, ensure that the consequences of runaway climate change are, are not seen.

Goal number three of the proposed list is to ensure health for all. That’s access to health services. That means electricity in the health clinics. It means emergency transport to those health clinics. It means modern information systems, also requiring electricity,so that those clinics can run effectively. It means environmental health as well. It means that people are not choking and dying of indoor air pollution or the particulate pollution of coal fire power plants and the smog of Asia’s cities. And so again, the interconnection of the health agenda and the safe energy and climate change mitigation agendas.

Goal number four, ensure inclusive and equitable education for all children. Again, information technology, electricity in the classroom can play a very, very big role in this. And there are lots of innovations possible to bring education and information to places that right now don’t have a book but could have the world of online information opened to them.

Goal number six proposed by the open working group is to ensure access to water and sanitation. Once again, modern energy services of pumped water, solar irrigation, solar systems for water safety, even for desalination in some locations will be part of water security and therefore intertwined with energy services.

Proposed goal number seven of the open working group is specifically about universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

This is good. Energy is put straight on the table. And the commitment to ending energy poverty as one of the most powerful tools to raising human well-being and ending other forms of poverty is now clear and it’s linked also strongly to climate change mitigation through the very strong emphasis on renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and cleaner fossil fuel technologies, perhaps carbon capture and sequestration or other, other potential solutions.

But the point is, energy for all in a way that is compatible with the 2-degree centigrade carbon budget. Notably, proposed goal thirteen is on climate change itself. This is extremely important as I’ve been emphasizing, climate change is one of the absolute core aspects of sustainable development. This was contentious within the open working group. For a while many governments said, “don’t put in a separate goal on climate change because we have the climate change negotiations that will come just after the sustainable development goals are adopted.” But that was not really the correct way to think about this challenge.

The sustainable development goals will apply for a 15-year period, for the years 2016 to 2030. Therefore, during that whole period the signal, the message much go out to the whole world that to achieve sustainable development we need to achieve climate change mitigation. We need to honor the 2-degree centigrade goal. And the governments came to understand that the sustainable development goals are not the place to negotiate the climate change details. There’ll be enough negotiations under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, thank you, during 2015 not to confuse the negotiations with yet another venue. But the governments did come to understand that of course climate change needs to be a headline within the sustainable development goals because the sustainable development goals are not legally binding treaties, they’re not the UNFCCC substitute. They are the guideposts. They’re the compass for the world. And climate change must be there to remind the, the world every day that to achieve sustainable development, we must achieve climate change control.

And finally, I want to emphasize that the poor countries have been saying throughout these negotiations, “well that’s all fine and good, we like that goal on ending poverty. We definitely want energy services. But how, how is this going to be done?” And the poor countries have insisted therefore that one of the goals be on what is called in the jargon, the means of implementation. And this is the same jargon used in the climate negotiations as well. Where is the money on the table when it’s needed? How will research and development be financed? How can we ensure that impoverished populations, that by themselves cannot afford crucial needs on a market basis, are nonetheless availed of those needs whether it’s healthcare or access to energy, that through public services as a crucial way to meet their human needs.

And so the commitment needs to be made together with the broad aspirations that the ways to actually achieve those goals is found in terms of financing, in terms of requisite technology, in terms of building local capacities and expertise and education of the next generation of sustainable development leaders, of trade policies that facilitate these solutions, of the partnerships that are needed and of systems of data monitoring and feedback to make sure that we stay on track and when we get off track, the alarm bells go off to say we’re not achieving the goals that we have set ourselves, we have to push back onto that path.

And these are the same means of implementation that will be needed in Paris in December 2015. It will be one thing to state goals; it will be another thing to lay out pathways on how to achieve the goals.

But then there will have to be clarity about how those goals, those aspirations, those pathways can actually be achieved and issues of finance, trade, monitoring will be front and center on the climate negotiations just as they are on the sustainable development goal negotiations.

Finally, let me talk about the means of implementation specifically on energy for the poor.

One thing is clear from the experience of bringing healthcare to all that has been very successful during the Millennium Development Goal period.

For the poorest of the poor, we need to give a bit of help. For people who have nothing, asking them to buy the energy services that they need or the healthcare is a route to failure.

We need to recognize that for the poorest people in the world, an added hand-up, a helping hand, to achieve these goals is vital. In the case of healthcare, a big innovation was to create the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria back in 2002.

That provided some of the financing to ensure that even impoverished populations could gain access to lifesaving health technologies. I believe that we need a similar global fund for energy for all.

That the idea that this will come only through market forces could be right for even six-sevenths of the world’s population, but for the poorest of the poor, we’re going to need to do more.

We also know in the context of climate change mitigation, but also in the context of overcoming energy poverty that research and development is crucial. And research and development intrinsically is both a public and a private initiative for some of those breakthroughs in off-grid, or microgrid energy, or in tapping geothermal power, or in new forms of mobilizing solar power for irrigation and so on. Research and development can lead to significant advances and this needs to be on the list of the to-dos to end energy poverty.

We know that we’re going to need large-scale investment, $50 or $60 billion dollars for example for Inga Falls. That’s not going to come out of public money, that is going to come out of pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance company funds.

And so we’re going to need institutional cooperation to channel private sector funds, perhaps with some public guarantees or some public insurance or some public sector participation in order to be able to fund the large-scale solar grids of west Africa or the large-scale hydropower grids of central Africa or the large-scale natural gas networks that could power east Africa in the coming decades.

And finally we know that all of these efforts require both the market forces, companies out for a profit, companies out to look for new innovation through market-driven incentives, as well as the cooperation of government and civil society, guided by these broad global goals.

In other words, projects like Inga Falls or projects like overcoming extreme energy poverty in Africa are complex tasks that require a considerable amount of project design, a high degree of cooperation across every major stakeholder group from the local communities, the national governments, the African Union, the international private sector, international financial institutions and the U.N. agencies.

It’s a hard job. That cooperation is vital for success. It’s at the heart of the call to end energy poverty; it’s at the very heart of the challenge of sustainable development itself.

Pedro Pereira Leite

Researcher and professor. He had his PhD. on museology in 2011, with the title “Muss-amb-ike Homeland: The commitment on musicological process”, that was published in 2011. In 2012 he finishes a Post-PhD Research on "Biographical Glances: The intersubjectivity poetry on museology, at Lusófona University (Lisbon). Presently he is working in his Post PhD. Research about: “Global Heritages" with the aims to build a network on local cognizance and memory manager has a tool to build the will of action in 3 different communities, linked by past communed heritages.” He works at CES. He participates on different Research network, presented papers in national and international conferences, and had published books on research subjects.

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