Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) Forum

Roopa Kamesh

Sustainable Energy for All is a major United Nations and World Bank-led global initiative to achieve three inter-connected objectives by 2030: 1) provide universal access to modern energy services, 2) double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and 3) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix from its current share of 18% to 36%. The initiative aims to link universal energy access to national development priorities, and recognizes the integrated role of public and private sectors, financial institutions, and civil society to achieve these goals.

With the objective of galvanizing efforts and building momentum for this vital initiative, the first annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum was held on June 4-6, 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters. During the three-day forum over 1,000 high-level delegates, representing international organizations, national government, the private sector and civil society, discussed progress that has already been made and envisioned a roadmap to make Sustainable Energy for All a reality by 2030.

Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships

The first day was primarily dedicated to multi-stakeholder partners in Sustainable Energy for All during which 46 panel discussions, with over 200 speakers, took place. The sessions focused on multiple themes, including promoting the sustainable energy movement, catalyzing investment through innovative business models, women’s empowerment, sharing knowledge and experience to develop capacity, and the need
to accelerate country specific actions.

Highlights from the first day included the recognition of the separate Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for securing Sustainable Energy for All, as well as more ambitious renewable and energy efficiency targets to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degree Celcius; launching of a global platform to step up programs for efficient appliances and equipment; identifying mini-grids, clean cookstoves and SolarAid as innovative business modes. Additionally, REN21’s Executive Secretary Christine Lins released the Global Status Report on Renewable 2014, which revealed that the renewals energy generation capacity has jumped to record high levels (see the Special Report findings on page 6).

Global Leadership Dialogue

The second day focused on current initiatives and world leaders’ visions on how to achieve the goals of the Sustainable Energy for All. In an inspiring address the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon showcased that “a growing number of people have light and power where there was none before.” Other prominent speakers, including Andris Piebalgs of European Union, Helen Clark of UNDP, and Luis Alberto Moreno of Inter-American Development Bank , highlighted the relationship between the need for new sustainable market policies to encourage investment in energy access and poverty reduction. Themes from the first day on financing, women issues, and energy linkages were explored in depth. The need for favorable tax treatment, reexamining high premiums placed on renewable investments, and attention to local cultural ecosystems among others were also identified.

The Chairman of the SE4ALL Executive Committee, Chad Holliday, emphasized the need for action over the next 5 years to “fundamentally change the energy system in a sustainable way by 2030”. This was supported by the Secretary General's Special Representative and the CEO of SE4ALL, Kandeh Yumkella, who also emphasized the need for “investments of $600-800 billion per year over the next two decades to achieve the SE4ALL revolution”.

Highlights of the second day included the unveiling of REmap 2030 by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This roadmap, according to the IRENA Director-General, Adnan-Amin, would provide an operational framework to double the share of renewable energy in the world’s energy mix by 2030. The day also witnessed the official launch of the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024) with its first 2 years focusing on energy for women and children’s health.

High Level Ministerial Dialogue

The final day discussions progressed to the next level with ministers and other senior government representatives, international organizations and NGO leaders providing specific updates on their respective sustainable energy challenges and opportunities. They identified new opportunities for growth and exchanged views on the economic, environmental, and social infrastructure required to “get the game right.” The President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon were among the prominent dignitaries who chaired the day’s plenaries. Dr. Yumkella’s announcement that energy is being included as the seventh proposed Sustainable Development Goals in the post 2015-development agenda was greeted with much enthusiasm by participants.

The three-day forum served as a starting point for a long-term institutional framework for sustainable energy partnerships. It made good progress in identifying avenues for global coordination on legal, financial and social commitments required to ensure a uniform and equal access to sustainable energy.

Global Energy Initiative fully supports and is committed to the worldwide efforts of promoting the Sustainable Energy for All agenda. The GEI’s recently launched initiative Students for Sustainable Energy for All (SSEA) and upcoming program Young Professionals for Sustainable Energy for All (YPSEA) aim to mobilizing tens of thousands youth to play an important role in achieving the goals of Sustainable Energy for All. Furthermore, our organization is planning to organize high-level conferences in different cities of the world to move forward this agenda.

Undoubtedly Sustainable Energy for All is an ambitious and daunting agenda, but the success of this forum has clearly demonstrated the spirit and commitment of the global community to what Dr. Yumkella described as “achievable goals.” The Climate Summit, scheduled for September 2014 at the UN headquarters, will be another big milestone to the cause of building a sustainable century.

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