Opening Speech at Sub-forum on China-Africa Cooperation for Sustainable Energy Access at the Eco Forum Global Annual Conference Guiyang 2014

10 Jul 2014

by Mr. Alain Noudéhou,

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

The Chief Executive Officer of WWF China, Mr. Sze Ping Lo,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

The topic of today’s event, “China Africa Cooperation for sustainable Energy Access” is one that is central to the United Nations. As you are probably aware, in September 2011 the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative which has three objectives:

1)   To ensure universal access to modern energy services.

2)   To double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

3)   To double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

While all of these objectives are critical, the universal access to modern energy services is of particular importance -- especially from a sustainable development perspective. At present more than 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity and 2.8 billion are relying on wood or other types of biomass for cooking and heating. This creates a substantial barrier that halts progress toward eradicating poverty. In particular lack of access to electricity is an impediment to improving livelihoods and supporting local entrepreneurship.

In this regard, a sustainable source of energy and equitable access to energy for all are of vital importance for a country ability to achieve its development objectives.

While it is very encouraging to know that many countries are now focusing their efforts on domestic energy security and on decarbonizing their energy mix, many are still struggling to secure the minimum energy level required to meet the basic human needs of their population. A key necessity to address central development issues such as poverty and basic health care is equitable access to affordable and reliable energy services.

For example, while the capital city of Lusaka in Zambia, enjoys approximately 80% electrification, other cities in that country have less than 50 % coverage.  The coverage is much lower in the rural areas where the majority of the population resides – with only 3% connected to the national grid.  This lack of access affects more than 6 million people in Zambia.

While it is difficult to quantify how this affect individual communities and individual households, studies have shown that equitable access to electricity is a key driver of sustainable development.

As such, access to decent source of energy stimulate local economic activity including operating businesses and creating employment. Likewise, access to energy is necessary to support basic social services such as functional refrigeration systems that are so critical for storing vaccines in rural areas.  Access to energy for the individual households is equally important.  For instance, it allows children to study longer in the evening something which has been shown to raise the quality of overall education objectives in a country.  Substitution of wood burning stoves with electric stoves has also been shown to contribute significantly to health improvements.

While the Sustainable Energy for All, which also supports the 2014‑2024 Decade of Sustainable Energy for All as declared by the UN General Assembly is still a young initiative, it has come a very long way.

A total of 81 governments from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Small Island Developing States have signed up to participate. Businesses and investors have committed billions toward the initiative. For those who follow social media, it is also worth noting that the rock band Linkin Park, which has some 44 million followers on social media globally, launched a petition drive on its Power the World website urging an end to energy poverty.

Recently, Mr. Wu Xinxiong, Vice Chair of National Development and Reform Commission and Administrator of the National Energy Administration was nominated by the China government to the Advisory Board of the UN Sustainable Energy for all.  This is an indication of a strong commitment from China on the subject of sustainable energy for all.  

The current forum will mainly discuss south-south cooperation within the frame of investment for the development of renewable energy and the transfer of technology to support this.

This is a very important topic as the issue at stake requires the involvement of all stakeholders such as the government, private sector as well as the UN system.

For our part, we are engaged in many different ways to facilitate investment in, and transfer of, technology. For example, UNDP China with the support from the Danish Government, is about to initiate two projects in Ghana and Zambia that are to address national barriers which currently hinder effective technology transfer for viable renewable energy solutions.   

These projects will focus on off grid solutions and through them, officials, from Ghana and Zambia are working together with their counterparts in China in a joint effort to find solutions to identified barriers. In the project formulations’ it became clear that not only did there exist barriers in Ghana and Zambia but there were also barriers in China which hampers an effective transfer of knowledge and technology. Some of these barriers in many countries are often due to unsubstantiated perception and lack of local knowledge.      

The main point I would like to put forth here today is the following:  If we do not effectively identify the barriers to effective technology transfer (financial or otherwise) all our efforts will have very limited impact unless.  Because only when we have identified and removed these barriers can we become effective in finding the right solutions.

In closing, I want to reiterate that we all have an important role to play in ensuring an equitable access to energy for all.

At the UN, we remain committed to providing the required support and facilitation to effectively reach our objectives.

Thank you for your attention