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Expert Opinions

Our Sustainable Development Imperative: Provide modern and efficient energy services

Mark Hopkins

International Energy Efficiency Director

UN Foundation

As we observe the desperate plight of the 1.4 billion people who lack access to energy, it is clear that we can only secure economic growth and prosperity if people can access modern energy services. The critical energy challenges confronting global policymakers today include providing energy to those who don’t have it and ensuring everyone has access to a sufficient supply of reliable and environmentally responsible energy services at market prices.  These challenges are growing as our world changes.  By 2050, the world’s population will have grown from today’s 7 billion to 9 billion.  Over the same period, the number of people living in large cities will have doubled to 6.5 billion, the equivalent of adding 270 cities the size of greater Paris!

In meeting the energy needs of 2050, we must also find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avert a climate disaster.   This challenge is both national and global. Solutions will come from the individual actions of each UN member government and society. But until action is taken, the challenge represents a serious threat to collective international security. As the main institution charged with maintaining global security, the United Nations must facilitate international collaboration, foster framework conditions for investment, help member countries to reform their energy policies and encourage the participation of all sectors of society, for instance through public-private engagement.

Each country will adopt those technology options that suit its situation.  But to be successful, there is one option that they all must deploy:  energy efficiency.  Energy waste is all around us, and policies that encourage greater efficiency will secure the world’s cheapest, quickest and cleanest energy supply resource.  Today, a wide range of cost-effective technologies and management practices are available for improving energy productivity.  As the graphic illustrates, improving the efficiency of energy production and transport as well as in our homes, appliances, offices, plants and transport systems represents almost one half of the global solution.  But, doing this will take strong policy action to overcome an array of barriers—legal, regulatory, tariff, subsidy, contractual, informational, and financial and market structure. 

There is no better national energy priority than improving a country’s energy productivity through energy efficiency to secure sustainable energy.  UN Foundation is proud to partner with UNECE and its member countries to work to double the annual rate of improvement in energy efficiency, one of the three goals of the UN Secretary-General’s initiative on Sustainable Energy for All.


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