Press Releases

    25 July 2005

    Acute Energy Problems Block Progress on Millennium Goals, with 2.4 Billion People Lacking Fuel, 1.6 Billion without Electricity, Warns New Report

    NEW YORK, 22 July (DESA) -- Some 2.4 billion people in developing countries lack modern fuels for cooking and heating and approximately 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity, a new UN-Energy Report presented here today says, underscoring the critical importance of energy issues to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

    The Energy Challenge for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals report warns that one of the most pressing policy matters facing the developing world today is the fact not only do most countries lack a national strategy for reaching the Millennium Development Goals, but that most of those that do actually ignore the fact that access to energy is an essential component of poverty reduction and national development.

    The UN-Energy report draws on the collective expertise of the entire United Nations system, including the World Bank, the authors note.  The Energy Challenge argues that the lack of modern fuels and electricity in most developing countries entrenches poverty, constrains the delivery of social services, limits opportunities for women, and erodes environmental sustainability.  Most importantly, says the report, it contributes to the death of more than 1.6 million people per year.

    The report documents the severity of the problem of indoor air pollution for the world’s poor, noting that one third of humanity still relies on dung and wood for cooking and heating.  Indeed, indoor air pollution is the fourth leading cause of disease in developing countries -- especially in Africa, where only 8 per cent of the population has access to electricity in their homes.

    According to the report and based on estimates by the International Energy Agency, $9.6 trillion in investment will be required from 2001 to 2030 in order to meet the growing energy demands of developing countries and transition economies.

    “In order to meet the MDGs by 2015, the role of energy investments should be explicitly factored into national development strategies”, noted Mats Karlsson, the Chair of UN-Energy.  “This important report marks a new way of cooperation in the UN system to follow up on the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

    The Energy Challenge is explicit about the need to expand energy services -- particularly rural energy, given its essential role in reducing poverty.  Mali is a case in point.  With the help of the United Nations, this West African country is developing community-level interventions aimed at increasing women’s access to rural energy services.  Since its inception in 1996, the project has enabled impoverished women to earn an additional $0.32 per day by providing mechanical power for domestic and agricultural needs -- a tiny amount by the standards of the industrialized economies, but a huge increase in income for the beneficiaries.

    The main messages of the report are:

    -- Energy services such as lighting, heating, cooking, motive power, mechanical power, transport and telecommunications are essential for socio-economic development, since they yield social benefits and support income and employment generation.

    -- The poor obtain energy services by gaining access to modern fuels, electricity and mechanical power.  This access is particularly important for women and girls since they are often the most affected by inadequate energy services.

    -- Reforms to the energy sector should protect the poor, especially the 1.3 billion people who live on less than $1 per day, and take gender inequalities into account in recognizing that the majority of the poor are women.

    -- The environmental sustainability of energy supply and consumption should be enhanced to reduce environmental and health hazards.  This requires measures that increase energy efficiency, introduce modern technologies for energy production and use, substitute cleaner fuels for polluting fuels, and introduce renewable energy.

    -- Large amounts of financial resources need to be mobilized for expanding energy investments and services in developing countries.  They account for a much larger share of gross domestic product compared to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.  Public sector resources will remain crucial for investing in energy service delivery for the poor due to the private sector’s limited appetite for risk in emerging markets.

    -- The role of energy and the costs of energy services should be factored into overall national economic and social development strategies, including poverty reduction strategies and Millennium Development Goals campaigns, as well as to donor programmes in order to reach development goals.  Energy planning must be linked to goals and priorities in other sectors.

    The launch ceremony included remarks by the following representatives of UN-Energy:  Mats Karlsson, Chair of UN-Energy, Vice-Chair of the United Nations High-Level Committee on Programmes; Luis Gomez Echeverri, Deputy Assistant Administrator, and Deputy Director of the Bureau for Development Policy, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Jamal Saghir, Director of Energy and Water, World Bank.

    If you would like more information on this topic, or to obtain a copy of the Report, please contact Mats Karlsson, Chair, UN-Energy, telephone: +1-212-963-8416 or e-mail:

    UN-Energy is the principal interagency mechanism in the field of energy that was set up to help ensure coherence in the United Nations system’s multi-disciplinary response to the World Summit on Sustainable Development and collective engagement of non-United Nations stakeholders.  UN-Energy draws on the collective expertise of the entire United Nations system, including the World Bank.  For more information about UN-Energy, please visit:

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