Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Asia-Pacific countries to promote the sustainable and efficient use of energy, given the backdrop of surging oil prices and the health problems caused by traditional fuels.
“The Asia-Pacific is lagging behind in providing access to energy services,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the ministerial segment of the 64th session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), delivered by its Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer.
He pointed out that 1.7 billion people in the region rely on traditional biomass fuels – the largest number of victims from indoor air pollution caused by burning these fuels is in the Asia-Pacific – and 1 billion lacking access to electricity.
The Secretary-General stressed that while climbing energy prices have dominated the news, their impact on people is often forgotten.
“The victims are very poor people who have no access to affordable and reliable energy supply to meet their daily subsistence requirements,” he observed. “They pay a much higher price – in terms of failing health; lost opportunities for education or employment, especially for girls and women; and degraded environment.”
With per capita energy consumption more than doubling between 1990 and 2004 in the Asia-Pacific region – outpacing the rest of the world – Mr. Ban appealed to attendees to encourage more efficient use of energy, better management, cleaner production and consumption.
During the session, some 350 government officials, business leaders and civil society representatives are meeting today as part of the annual Asia-Pacific Business Forum with the theme, “Energy Security: Opportunities through Regional Energy Cooperation and Public-Private Partnerships.”
Discussions at this one-day meeting are expected to culminate in policy recommendations which will be conveyed to a Ministerial Round Table on energy security and sustainable development on 28 April.
In a study prepared for the Commission session entitled “Energy Security and Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific,” ESCAP stressed how energy deprivation in the region’s developing countries impacts poverty reduction efforts and impedes the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets.
The report warned that the Asia-Pacific cannot rely on continuing increases in its energy supply to spur its economic growth. If the region’s energy needs continue growing at the current rate, it will account for half of the world’s energy demand by 2030, 80 per cent of which will be for oil, coal and other fossil fuels, which will result in massive carbon emissions.