The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All to promote a future world in which energy is accessible, cleaner and more efficient.
Access to energy is a major problem for many on Earth today. The United Nations estimates that one in five people on the planet lack access to the most basic forms of modern electricity. The International Energy Agency (IEA) puts the number at nearly 1.6 billion people with no access to electricity. Without electricity, children have trouble studying at night and businesses have to close their stores early when the sun sets. This situation leads to a lack of educational and economic opportunities in energy impoverished communities that can worsen already high levels of poverty.
Nearly three billion people around the world rely on wood, coal, charcoal and animal waste for cooking and heating. The use of these types of fuel in a household can release dangerous levels of indoor air pollutants.
In industrialized countries, the inefficient use of fossil fuel energy is contributing to energy insecurity and climate change.
To help address these problems facing the planet, the Sustainable Energy for All initiative was launched to promote the development of sustainable energy – energy that is accessible, cleaner and more efficient.
The top three goals of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative are to (1) ensure universal access to modern energy services, (2) double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and (3) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. The United Nations hopes that these goals can be achieved by a target date of 2030.
As part of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, the Power the World Project is working to collect funds that will provide solar light bulbs to families in Haiti. Also, The Future We Want Project is asking people at every level of society to submit their visions for a positive future so that these ideas can be presented in June 2012 at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You can check out these two projects and learn more about the Sustainable Energy for All initiative here.
You can also celebrate the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All in your own unique way. Consider spending a day to improve energy efficiency around your home. Buy some solar panels. Host or attend one of the many sustainable energy events that are taking place around the world during 2012. At the very least, watch the video that was released on January 16, 2012 to commemorate the new year.
Bottom line: The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. The initiative aims to ensure that people have access to modern energy services and to improve energy efficiency and increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030.
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.