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The trillion dollar question of how to convert commitments to kilowatts
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The trillion dollar question of how to convert commitments to kilowatts

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More than a billion people - one in five globally - lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business, says the World Bank, in a recently-released report, and nearly three billion rely on dangerous, polluting fuels - like wood, charcoal and animal dung - to cook and heat their homes.

Renewable energy generation and energy efficiency improvements need to accelerate dramatically worldwide if development and climate goals are to be met over the next decade-and-a-half, according to the report - Progress Toward Sustainable Energy: Global Tracking Framework 2015 - which was introduced at the just-concluded Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Forum, in New York.

The report calls on global policy makers to work toward tripling energy investments, from the current level of $400 billion, to US$1.25 trillion. The report also calls for modern methods of measuring energy access, to replace traditional measurements, which, it says, vastly underestimate the scale of the challenge.

Commitments already made under the SE4All initiative, by the European Union, Germany and the United States, are set to help developing countries provide energy access to their underserved citizens, but will fall short of universal access. "How do we convert commitments to kilowatt hours for real people? That is the trillion-dollar question," said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and SE4All chief, Kandeh Yumkella, at a ministerial meeting of the Forum. "This is not about charity. This is about markets and investments. We see this as a trillion-dollar opportunity, not a trillion-dollar challenge."

The Forum, which aimed to build momentum on energy issues, took place ahead of three key meetings slated for later this year – the July International Conference on Financing for Development, in Addis Ababa; the September UN Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, in New York; and the December Climate Conference, in Paris.

At the Forum, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson called for "new approaches that go to the heart of unsustainable production and consumption patterns – across agriculture, industry, infrastructure and transport, and from factories to offices, from homes to market places." Success depends on Governments, companies, investors, educators, scientists, civil society and citizens acting together, he said, adding, "Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical duties in this year of action."











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