Rio conf must “connect the dots”

The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. The goal: ‘To defeat poverty and save the planet. We can, and must achieve sustainable energy for all by the year 2030’.

In 2012 the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20. One of the principal themes is “a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”.

“This represents an important opportunity to take new and decisive steps to mobilize support for clean energy investment. In Rio the world must connect the dots between growth, energy, water, and food security, poverty, climate change, biodiversity, health and women’s empowerment,” says CEO of Environment Africa, Charlene Hewatt.

Access to modern energy sources transforms lives and is critical to development and moving people out of poverty. “But we are making very slow progress in this area. In fact, projections show that just as many women, men and children will be living in energy poverty two decades from now. That’s not development, it’s injustice,” said Hewatt.

A long overdue global consensus is emerging, led by the UN and its secretary general Ban Ki-moon, which recognizes the importance of access to sustainable energy for the wellbeing of the world’s people, the future of the global economy and the preservation of our planet.

With this in mind, Practical Action has launched the civil society call: energy for all 2030 initiative, endorsed by more than 70 NGOs across Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative is dedicated to ending energy poverty and achieving universal energy access by 2030.

Today the world faces two urgent and interconnected challenges related to modern energy services – based on where they are available and where they are not. One out of every five people on earth lives without access to electricity and the opportunities it provides for working, learning, or operating a business. Twice as many – nearly 3 billion people – use wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste to cook their meals and heat their homes, exposing themselves and their families to smoke and fumes that damage their health and kill nearly 2 million people a year.

One of the key focus areas for Zimbabwe in working towards ‘Sustainable Energy For All’ has to be poverty alleviation. Like many other developing African nations, Zimbabwe faces the critical challenges of poverty.

In rural areas women and girls spend many hours of their day collecting firewood for cooking and heating water. Sustainable energy reduces the time and effort needed to collect fuel wood and supports cleaner, more efficient cooking options.

Energy is essential to education. Alternative energy sources such as solar provide lighting so children can study after dark. We have access to the most powerful natural energy resource, the sun, so it makes sense that solar energy should be harnessed.

Studies have shown the improvement in the levels of education of children who previously did not have lighting. By providing a simple solar lamp, these children are now able to extend their hours of study.

At national level, clear policies and regulatory frameworks are key and open communication and co-operation between government and private sector should be actively engaged.

Post published in: Environment

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