Publications

The Energy Challenge for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals

This UN-Energy paper on the importance of energy for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was drafted collectively by the United Nations (UN) agencies, programmes and organizations working in the area of energy, reflecting their insights and expertise. Currently, the available energy services fail to meet the needs of the poor.

This UN-Energy paper on the importance of energy for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was drafted collectively by the United Nations (UN) agencies, programmes and organizations working in the area of energy, reflecting their insights and expertise.

Currently, the available energy services fail to meet the needs of the poor. Worldwide, 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity. This situation entrenches poverty, constrains the delivery of social services, limits opportunities for women, and erodes environmental sustainability at the local, national and global levels. Much greater access to energy services is essential to address this situation and support the achievement of the MDGs.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) recognized the explicit link between access to energy services and poverty reduction. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) called for the international community to work together at all levels to improve access to reliable and affordable energy services for sustainable development sufficient to facilitate the achievement of the MDGs. However, governments face serious challenges for improving energy services for the poor, and they need the full financial and institutional support of other stakeholders to produce and deliver more energy.

Main messages

  • Energy services such as lighting, heating, cooking, motive power, mechanical power, transport and telecommunications are essential for socio-economic development, since they yield social benefits and support income and employment generation.
  • The poor obtain energy services by gaining access to modern fuels, electricity and mechanical power. This access is particularly important for women and girls since they are often the most affected by inadequate energy services.
  • Reforms to the energy sector should protect the poor, especially the 1.1 billion people who live on less than $1 per day, and take gender inequalities into account in recognizing that the majority of the poor are women.
  • The environmental sustainability of energy supply and consumption should be enhanced to reduce environmental and health hazards. This requires measures that increase energy efficiency, introduce modern technologies for energy production and use, substitute cleaner fuels for polluting fuels, and introduce renewable energy .
  • Large amounts of financial resources need to be mobilized for expanding energy investments and services in developing countries. They account for a much larger share of gross domestic product compared to OECD countries. Public sector resources will remain crucial for investing in energy service delivery for the poor due to the private sector’s limited appetite for risk in emerging markets.
  • The role of energy and the costs of energy services should be factored into overall national economic and social development strategies, including poverty reduction strategies and MDG campaigns, as well as to donor programmes in order to reach development goals. Energy planning must be linked to goals and priorities in other sectors.