SE4All Civil Society Statement: English

Note: There is also a complimentary initiative from some civil society groups, calling for the rejection of SE4All


Governments and the UN should support a more ambitious, accountable and people-driven Sustainable Energy for All initiative in Rio

1.3 billion people remain without access to electricity, while almost 40% of the world’s population rely on solid fuels for cooking or heating. As billions of the world’s poorest people struggle to meet their energy needs, over-consumption of energy primarily in the North is driving dangerous climate change – 11% of the world’s population produce half of all greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency recently warned that failure to reduce fossil fuel consumption will put the world on the path to at least 6oc of global warming.

A new energy model that addresses the twin challenges of climate change and energy poverty while balancing global energy use is urgently needed. The UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative and the 2012 UN General Assembly-endorsed International Year of Sustainable Energy for All bring welcome political focus to the task of ensuring that people living in poverty can access clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy. Access to energy is a fundamental right, not a privilege.

However, the initiative as it stands is inadequate and non-inclusive and will not achieve the level of change required to tackle both energy poverty and dangerous climate change. To date, multinational corporations have been given the biggest role, while the very voices of those it intends to help have been excluded at the highest levels. We call on the UN Secretary-General to ensure a meaningful, accountable and people-driven process at global and national level that involves the energy poor, affected communities and vulnerable and marginalised groups. In turn, this can deliver the higher levels of ambition needed to bring about effective change. Without such engagement, the initiative risks being ineffective and illegitimate.

A meaningful, accountable and people-driven initiative

Democratic accountability and a post-Rio consultation: The initiative as it stands is undemocratic and unaccountable, with the process sitting outside international multilateral processes and institutions. We are concerned that corporate interests from the fossil fuel, finance and energy industries have been invited by the UN Secretary General to his High-Level Group, while most national governments and civil society voices have not. In general, civil society and the energy poor have been accorded a limited role throughout SE4All. A fully-funded, well-timed, inclusive and accountable civil society engagement process is needed at the global level after Rio+20 to enshrine a multi-stakeholder approach, without which the initiative will not deliver for the planet or the energy poor. One example of best practice for a successful process is the World Commission on Dams, which identified representation, independence, transparency and inclusiveness as key structuring principles.

 Country-level SE4All Strategies and Civil Society Participation: If SE4All is to be operationalised at the national level, this process must begin with an extensive, transparent, inclusive and responsive consultation involving all stakeholders, particularly those directly affected by poverty, lack of energy access and the impacts of extractive industries, with an emphasis on women and marginalised groups. The European Commission’s Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Treaty (FLEGT) shows how this can be done through facilitating a network of civil society platforms. Stakeholders must be sufficiently resourced and given enough time and information to allow genuine participation. Any national strategy must lay out clearly defined accountability and monitoring mechanisms to enable citizens to hold their government and any private sector concessionaires accountable in real time for progress on commitments and their impacts. Specifically, we call on donor and private sector actors to commit to funding such a process of civil society engagement, accountability and monitoring in SE4All countries to ensure the effectiveness of national roll-out.

Higher Levels of Ambition

Universal Access: In prioritising universal access and the eradication of energy poverty, SE4ALL must support people’s right to access the full range of energy services, and recognise that decentralised, community-controlled systems are often the least-cost and most effective way to deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy. In contrast, market-based, large-scale centralised solutions have been unable to reach the billions lacking access. Measuring access must go beyond simple power metrics like ‘number of homes electrified’ or ‘number of cook-stoves distributed’, and include minimum standards for the energy services people need.

Delivering Climate Targets: The initiative aims to keep global temperature rises to 2oc, despite widespread acceptance that this is not a safe limit. However, the three goals fall short of even this agreed target and must be far more ambitious. Technology choices – which are currently left to national governments – should also adhere to clear social and environmental criteria that protect people, ecosystems and the climate from negative impacts across their production supply chain. This means excluding in particular industrial bioenergy, large-scale hydroelectric dams and fossil and nuclear fuelled power plants from the initiative. All technologies should be locally appropriate and reflect the needs of the poor at household, productive and community level.

International leadership and support: Poorer countries and the world’s poorest people need substantial assistance to realise their right to universal energy access from clean, safe, reliable and affordable sources, as well as transitioning their energy sectors away from dirty fossil fuels in a fair and equitable way. Rich, industrialised countries, in line with the principles of equity, historical responsibility and common but differentiated responsibility, must lead the just transition by providing poorer countries with the appropriate technology, capacity building and public finance, such as through redirecting producer fossil fuel subsidies and enacting a global financial transaction tax. Addressing trade barriers, including issues around intellectual property rights, will also be key, while national-level energy access strategies under an ambitious and people-driven SE4ALL Initiative can ensure local development gains are additional and measurable. Crucially, rich, industrialised countries must also pursue a just transition at home, addressing their own over-consumption and ensuring their energy sectors are on track to be 100% renewable by 2050 in a fair and equitable way.

 SE4ALL must avoid being captured by corporate interests and become a truly transformational initiative if it is to meet the urgent challenges of energy poverty and climate change.


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