By Anthony Kamara, reporting from Vienna, Austria.
The “Energy for All – Time for Action” summit which attracted over 1,200 participants from 110 countries has successfully ended at the Hofsburg Palace in the Austrian capital of Vienna. In an effort to confront the world’s current energy challenges, heads of state, policy makers , 44 ministerial-level participants, energy representatives and experts, representatives from UN agencies, bilateral organizations debated vigorously and built consensus on actionable goals toward reaching sustainable development.
The energy forum which is a bi-annual event saw an increase in participants from 778 including 20 ministerial-level participants from 93 countries in 2009 to over 1, 200 participants including 44 ministerial-level participants from 110 countries in 2011. As a result of the successful three-day event, participants are now calling for regional energy fora to be held annually and for a global energy forum to take place thereafter.
Spearheaded by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) under the leadership of Sierra Leonean born Director General, Kandeh Yumkella, with support from the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), participants held deliberate and meaningful discussions over many different sessions about overcoming energy poverty with an actionable agenda centered around energy access, energy access and the MDGs, energy efficiency, decarbonisation of the economy, the role of UN Energy and the UN system in helping achieve universal access by 2030.
With close to 1.4 billion people having no access to electricity and a billion more having access to unreliable electricity, UNIDO, as one of the leading agencies of the United Nations system, has taken up the challenge in leading by sharing their expertise, experience and best practices in the global stage and providing technical cooperation services as it relates to coordinating national and international actions, policies geared to the energy sector.
“Energy is central to all development challenges and more than ever, the call is urgent” said Yumkella as he runs from one meeting to the other in consultation with global leaders and country representatives in securing their commitment to the “energy for all – time for action” agenda. In effect, this is to underscore that sustainable energy, described as “a precondition and catalyst for economic and social development” and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) would be impossible if a large percentage of the world’s population continue to be energy deficient.
As chairman of both the UN Energy and Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC), UNIDO’s Yumkella assembled the best minds in the industry who were instrumental in positioning the first Vienna Energy Forum in 2009 as the event “that provided useful inputs that ended up in UN Secretary General’s report released in April 2010.” His collaborative leadership ensured that resolutions from global energy leaders especially from Africa, Latin America and Asia led to a major resolution passed unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly declaring 2012 as the sustainable energy year for all.
Pursuant to meeting the three defining energy goals, outcomes of the various discussions he continually steers between chief executives of leading global industries and representatives of the international community, it is clear action leading to an energy revolution to achieving universal energy access by 2030, reducing global energy intensity by 40% as well as making sure 30% of the world’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030 is underway.
Dr. Kandeh Yumkella and the Danish ambassador to the UN
DG Yumkella and partners including Carsten Staur, permanent representative of Denmark to the UN and Nebojsa Nakicenovic, deputy director of IIASA and professor of economics at the Vienna University of Technology will depart Vienna for New York to present the just concluded successful VEF report to UN Secretary General Moon. Continuing his remarks, Dr.Yumkella humbly informed participants at the closing plenary session of having surpassed the ambitious goals they, as organizers, set. “We have put together some of the best minds to look at energy in its totality, energy for development and sustainable development for all,” he underscored.
Building on the successes of the VEF, energy partners filled with “renewable energy” and an uncontained passion to make the world a more equitable place, are moving on with a renewed sense of urgency in dealing with the energy crisis as they meet in Abu Dhabi, (UAE) on a High-Level Africa consultative forum on renewable energy scheduled for July 2011. Moving from words to actions, they will then proceed to South Africa in mid-September in South Africa and Norway in October cognizant that an energy revolution is needed in navigating the major economic transitions of the 21st century.
As the year 2012 – the year for sustainable energy for all approaches and preparations are ongoing for the Rio plus 20 agenda which seeks to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the 10th anniversary of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in 2002 in South Africa, the VEF will continue to work collaboratively with others on confronting head-on the 21st century energy crisis from economic, environmental and social sustainability perspectives.
At the sidelines of the VEF was the annual session of the Circulo de Montevideo (CdeM) with a prominent membership of 30 members as they work on “reviewing strategies for promoting sustainable industrial development” in Latin America. The Global Network on Energy for sustainable Development (GNESD), the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development among others all held sessions geared towards confronting the energy issues, energy for the poor, since it is a fact that the MDGs cannot and will not be achieved without dealing with energy access.