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Since he was tapped by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to co-lead his global energy access initiative, UNIDO Director General, Kandeh Yumkella, has never missed an opportunity to underscore why access to energy is vital to the world’s poorest. “For poor people, it is about life and death,” he said as he delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Ashden Awards ceremony held in the United Kingdom.
According to their website, “the Ashden Awards bring to light ground-breaking green energy champions in the UK and developing world and inspire others to follow. From an enterprise bringing clean stoves to rural Africa to a Cornish school embracing energy-saving across its learning and practice, our winners are passionate about bringing change to their communities and the planet.”
In our world today, about 1.5 billion people lack access to modern forms of electricity. That is one in five people are without any access to energy and billions more rely on traditional forms such as wood, charcoal, animal wastes to cook meals or to heat their homes. Until the world community comes together to solve such global challenges, harmful smoke and fumes emitted from polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting and heating devices will continue to kill about two million people dying prematurely each year.
“Promoting local sustainable energy and a shift to a low carbon economy that would eventually bring green jobs, energy security, lower fuel bills and reduced fuel poverty” is what Ashden does in the UK and the developing world.
Recognized as the best speech that has so far been delivered at the award ceremony, Yumkella inspires his audience and reminds them of the “catastrophic human consequences of failing to act fast enough on climate change, while convincing us that the solutions are within our grasp” and leaving his the jam-packed hall yearning for more.
Below is a video of the speech and a transcript.
As you saw this evening, the Awards integrate energy access, food security and water security. For poor people it’s about life and death. You’re talking about 1.3 billion people who have zero access to electricity. You’re talking about 2.7 billion people – almost one third of mankind – who rely on cow dung and biomass for their primary needs. This results in almost 2 million deaths year – much more than malaria and aids. And the UN Energy Agency projects that by 2030 that number will go up. You’ll be surprised that there are about 587 million energy poor in Africa, 350-400 million in India: energy poverty is real.
So today’s event is that nexus, that connection between energy security, water security and food security.
“When you deal with geopolitics, when you’re in New York, and UK representatives have to defend national interests, the Americans have to do the same, the Chinese have to do the same, it’s difficult to transact energy issues, it is very sensitive.
Then you talk about green energy?! How should we talk about green energy when others have industrialized for 150, 200 years, polluting, and suddenly we have to be clean? How do you convince the others, how do you convince the Africans, responsible for less than 3 per cent of global emissions, that they should be green?
But they financed the first industrial revolution, they were under colonial governments – now they should leapfrog and be green when others have enjoyed cheap energy, polluting energy, and transformed their economies and become industrialized?
The truth is, they have to. It’s about poverty reduction. It’s about women’s empowerment. But you know something, it is also the reality that if business as usual continues, the poorest of the poor suffer. Africa will lose 50% of yields from its crops, Bangladesh and Vietnam will lose about 25% of their low-lying areas.
As a friend of mine sometimes says: “Everyone will have a room in climate hell.”
And meanwhile we see that solutions are available. The Ashden Awards are also about partnerships. If the UK is green and the rest of us are not green, the net effect is zero, we’ll still hit 4 degrees and we’ll all perish. It has to reach across the world. Some of you have solutions, some of you have finance, you’ve got to help the rest of the world access that. You know in the next 20 years, 45-50% increase in energy demand is projected. Most of it – around 70% – will be in developing countries. If you don’t share technologies, if good technologies can’t be financed, yes, climate change will worsen.
Finally, the Ashden Awards is about business models. I’m very pleased to see that the last Award went to an entity looking at microfinance. With all the good intentions in the world, the speed and scale of interventions we need today to stay at 2 degrees to ensure that growth is inclusive, that we lift the rest of the world out of poverty, you need scale and speed.”Photos Credit: Andrew Aitchison / Ashden Awards With Contribution from Julia Hawkins @ The Ashden Blog
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