Participants called for bold steps and strategic public-private partnerships to guarantee universal energy access by 2030, including by expanding the use of renewable energy sources.

The three-day Vienna Energy Forum is organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). It brings together over 1,000 participants, including heads of State, ministers, energy experts, representatives of international and non-governmental organisations, academia, civil society and the private sector.

The UN General Assembly named 2012 as the International Year for Sustainable Energy for All. The UN Foundation has launched a website for the Year: Speaking at the Forum, former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger said that universal energy access was not "just about lighting a dark room, or cooking on a better stove. It's about the freedom that energy - and especially renewable energy - gives us".

Last year, with the encouragement of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Schwarzenegger launched R20, which brings together regional governments, NGOs, corporations and educational institutions to create strong green economies around the world, new green jobs and build commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Director-General of UNIDO, Kandeh K. Yumkella, who also chairs UN-Energy, a United Nations system-wide coordinating mechanism on energy issues, said that the lack of access to affordable, reliable energy services was a fundamental hindrance to human, social, and economic development, adding that "without access to modern forms of energy it is highly unlikely that any of the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved".

Participants pointed to a deep inequity that exists between the rich and poor, saying that, roughly, the poorer three-quarters of the world's population use only 10 per cent of the world's energy. About 1.5 billion people still don't have access to electricity, and around 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass and coal as their primary source of energy. The demand for energy in developing countries is expected to grow dramatically, and the increases in population and improvements in living standards are adding to the scale of the challenges.

In April 2010, the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC), chaired by Yumkella, called for the adoption of a target to achieve universal access to modern energy services and for a 40 per cent reduction in energy intensity by 2030.

The Forum coincided with the pre-launch of the Global Energy Assessment (GEA), the most comprehensive and integrated analysis of the global energy system ever undertaken. Coordinated by IIASA, the GEA involved over 500 energy experts from around the world and uniquely addresses the issues of energy access, equity, climate change, health and gender issues and security and investment simultaneously.

The GEA estimates that the global investments required are about USD 40 billion annually, a relatively small fraction of the total energy infrastructure investment required by 2030. The magnitude of the resources required makes it evident that the solution is for major public-private partnerships being nurtured by innovative policies such as feed-in-tariffs and other innovative mechanisms.

Suleiman J. Al-Herbish, Director-General, OPEC Fund for International Development, said there was a need for "enhanced willingness and a genuine political will from developed countries to help developing countries" based on a better recognition of what is called the "climate debt". "That is the massive compensation owed to the poor for suffering from the damage of climate change they have not caused. There is no shortage of good intentions or promises such as the ones made in Cancun in December 2010, however the issue is the implementation on the ground," he said.

The Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, said that energy interlinked with "climate change, the future of the energy mix, the problems of energy security, security of supply and security of demand and transportation," adding that energy was "quite possibly the main problem for our generation to resolve". He called upon all countries to work together "in order to maximize our impact in the area of energy, and do this in a way which will pool our expertise; since we all approach energy issues from slightly different perspectives".

<i>By The Emirates News Agency (WAM)

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