United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director Achim Steiner and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) director general Adnan Amin have urged all stakeholders across Africa to make firm commitments as part of the Action Agenda on how to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030.
Speaking at an event marking the Africa rollout of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, they emphasized the importance of energy for economic and social development across the continent, to improve the lives of the poorest in a more sustainable manner.
Investments in clean energy allow countries in the region to harness substantial renewable energy resource endowments and leapfrog to modern and efficient infrastructure development.
The two leaders referred to many examples that are implemented throughout the region already and that should be replicated and scaled up.
For her part, Minister of State in the Vice-President's Office (Environment) Terezya Luoga Hovisa highlighted the enormous renewable energy potential, ranging from solar, geothermal, hydro, wind and modern biomass that can be harnessed to achieve universal access to energy.
"I call upon all actors to work together to implement the commitments outlined in the 2011 Johannesburg Declaration of the Africa Energy Ministers Conference," Hovisa said.
Steiner and Amin called attention to the Sustainable Energy for All initiative launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - a unique partnership between business, government and civil society designed to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030. The Secretary-General has three interlinked objectives for his initiative: to ensure universal access to energy, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and double the share of renewables in the global energy mix, all by 2030.
Steiner, who also serves as a UN Under-Secretary-General, called for implementation of the initiative's "Framework for Action," designed to guide the work of governments, the private sector and civil society as they mobilize, facilitate, and monitor efforts to expand energy access, promote efficiency standards and policies, and strengthen investment in renewables.
Speaking about the secretary-general's initiative, Steiner said, "Engagement by the private sector is essential to boost economic growth and reduce poverty. It will help address the huge need for investments in Africa and mobilize the action necessary to provide universal access to modern energy services."
Globally, one person in five lacks access to modern electricity, and nearly three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating.
Adnan Amin spoke about the immense potential for significantly increasing investment in renewable energy based on establishing an enabling policy environment and enhanced capacity.
In this regard, Kenya is paving the way for other African nations with its pledge to be kerosene-free by 2018 and in its use of wind and geothermal energy to power municipalities.
"Private sector involvement is essential to create more growth and lesspoverty, contributing to the huge need for investments in Africa. Norway's Energy+ initiative intends to contribute to the implementation of Sustainable Energy for All," said Erik Solheim, minister of Environment and International Development of Norway.
Speaking from the Brazilian experience with "Luz Para Todos," Izabella Teixeira, minister of Environment of Brazil, highlighted the importance of political involvement to trigger action by all stakeholders. She emphasized the need to look at energy within the context of the food, water and energy nexus.
"Sustainable access and use of energy are part of the green economy," Teixeira said. "Energy will be at the center of discussions at the upcoming Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development."
Because of the central role that energy plays in society, the UN secretary-general has appointed a high-level group of distinguished leaders from finance, government, the private sector and civil society to drive action towards the complementary objectives of energy access, renewables and efficiency. Steiner and Amin are both members of this group.