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UN chief call for action on clean energy

By Michael Casey
AP Environmental Writer / January 16, 2012
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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates—Governments and the private sector must ramp up their investments into sustainable energy as part of a larger effort to alleviate poverty around the world and combat climate change, the U.N. chief told an energy conference Monday.

Ban Ki-moon told delegates at the World Future Energy Summit that he wants to see the world double its share of renewable energy, which typically includes wind, solar and hydropower, by 2030. He also called for providing universal access to energy services by that date and doubling the rate of energy efficiency as part of what he is calling the "Sustainable Energy for All Initiative."

"This is the right time for the initiative," Ban said. "Across the world, we see momentum building for concrete action that reduces energy poverty, catalyzes sustainable growth and mitigates climate change. Achieving sustainable energy is both feasible and necessary."

Recalling his childhood in postwar South Korea where electricity "transformed my life," Ban said it was unacceptable that today billions of people worldwide are without it.

"Why should energy poverty condemn billions to darkness, to missed opportunities for education and prosperity?" Ban said.

"It is neither just nor sustainable that one in five lacks access to modern electricity. It is not acceptable that 3 billion people have to rely on wood, coal or charcoal for cooking and heating," he continued. "We need to turn on the lights for all households. To do that, we need to scale up success examples of clean energy and energy efficient technology. We need innovation that can spread throughout the developing world where energy demand is growing fastest."

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, whose country of 1.3 billion people has passed the United States to become the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, insisted it was shifting away from polluting fossil fuels. He highlighted the fact that the country has "made sustained endeavors to reduce energy consumption and emission in the industrial, transport and construction sectors" leading to a drop of 20 percent between 2005 and 2010.

Wen also noted that China has become world's top producer of hydropower and the fastest growing region for wind and solar power. It also has set a goal in the country's 12th, five-year plan of increasing the amount of renewables from the current rate of 8.3 percent to 11.4 percent and cutting energy intensity 16 percent by 2015.

"To achieve these goals, we face many difficulties and will have to pay a big price," Wen told delegates. "But we will not waiver in our commitment."

Wen also called on the transfer of clean energy technology from the developed world to poor countries -- a demand that at times has bogged down efforts to reach a new deal on regulating global emissions.

"The final solution to any future energy problem does not lie with the possession of energy resources but possession of high technology and breakthroughs in science and technology," he said. "Developed countries with advanced technology should, while protecting intellectual property rights, provide and transfer technologies to developing and underdeveloped countries."

Wen also said a "global energy market governance mechanism" may need to be established under the G-20 framework to ensure that the "energy markets will be more secure, stable and sustainable." He did not elaborate.

Neither Wen nor South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik mentioned Iran in their speeches. Both countries are big importers of Iranian crude and have sought to ensure they can get supplies from Gulf Arab countries should Iran's supplies be disrupted in showdowns over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

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Follow Michael Casey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mcasey1

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