A UN push to provide electricity to more than 1 billion people who live off the grid is threatened by indecision at an important global development conference this week, despite robust support from EU leaders. Donor fatigue in times of economic troubles is part of the problem.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has called for a “global clean energy revolution” to provide electricity to the developing world by 2030 and he won commitments to the plan from the European Commission earlier this year.
But negotiators meeting in New York ahead of the 20th anniversary Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro appeared to fall short of agreeing commitments to provide sustainable energy in some of the world’s most impoverished regions, though the final conclusions are likely to support the concept.
“A New York agreement about that was not reached,” Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said in Brussels before heading to the Brazil meetings.
“It’s logical and should be supported by everybody, but we hope we will find an agreement,” he said. “It’s absolutely something which is a must for human development.”
Potočnik has pressed for an assertive EU role in winning binding ecological commitments at Rio from wary partners in developing and rich nations alike.
He told EurActiv he did not know why energy access has not had stronger support in behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to set the agenda for this week’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
But one UN Development Programme official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said donor fatigue in times of economic troubles is part of the problem.
The official, who is familiar with the Rio negotiations, also said some of the Group of 77 developing countries enthusiastically support the goal but don’t want rich nations prescribing how it is to be achieved by placing environmental conditions on aid.
Olivier Consolo, who heads the CONCORD charity confederation in Brussels, says the promises being made by the EU and donors to expand energy access are hollow.