In a culture that anguishes and argues about whether the light bulbs it uses cast a sufficiently warm glow, it might be difficult to fathom this global reality, as outlined by the United Nations: “One person in five still lacks access to modern electricity and twice that number – 3 billion people – rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating.”
Against this backdrop, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi to declare 2012 the “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.”
The U.N. actually kicked off the initiative, if not the year, last fall, at the U.N. Private Sector Forum 2011 – a setting that emphasized its belief that the fight to eradicate “energy poverty” won’t be solved by governments alone. That made the Abu Dhabi conference a good spot to promote the effort – Worldwatch Institute said the event has “significant and growing participation from the public sector and international NGOs” but is “primarily a business platform for companies, investors, project developers, and buyers.”
We’ve already seen large-scale corporate and NGO efforts taking on the power challenge: Late last year, for instance, IBM said it was teaming with international development charity Practical Action to form Energy Aid, aimed specifically at bringing sustainable power to poeple who use dangerously primitive energy sources. The U.N. is backing that effort, launched by IBM’s U.K. division, as are members of Parliament and Start, Prince Charles’ effort to promote sustainable living.