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Sustainable Energy for All in the Americas: Combating Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean

The United Nations Initiative Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) has the goal of ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030. These goals both work to combat climate change and provide an improved standard of living and greater opportunities for citizens.


At the United Nations SE4ALL Forum in New York in June 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told global energy decision makers, “The more you bring in terms of concrete deliverables, the more we can achieve towards our objectives, and the better we can support global efforts to combat climate change and strengthen resilience.”


Sustainable Energy for All Americas (SE4ALL Americas) is the hub of the initiative supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). SE4ALL Americas works to provide planning and financial support to countries to reach these goals in Latin America and the Caribbean, and organized the launch of the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All in the Americas in Santiago, Chile, from 15-17 October 2014. The launch, which will be hosted by President Michelle Bachelet and attended by United Nations Special Representative Kandeh Yumkella, will be followed by a two-day conference for leaders and decision makers in the sustainable energy field.


The focus of the SE4ALL initiative on doubling energy efficiency has a direct impact on climate change. As a recent article co-authored by Yumkella highlighted, “Targeted energy efficiency measures could deliver close to 50% of the emissions reductions required to limit global warming to 2ºC by 2020 — a threshold that climate scientists warn should not be breached if our societies and economies are to avoid serious harm from a rapidly changing climate.” In order to achieve such energy efficiency measures in Latin America and the Caribbean, IDB has invested in a variety of energy efficiency projects. For example, in 2013, IDB approved US$50 million for an Energy Efficiency Finance Facility to help fund smart-grids, advanced lighting, and solar and biomass projects in the region. As is evident, energy efficiency and renewable energy goals go hand in hand.


Renewable energy is both cleaner and more efficient, and although the initial financial investment is high, the long-term savings, both economic and environmental, are huge. IDB has funded innovative solar and wind projects in ChileUruguay, and Mexico, as well as sustainable aviation via the utilization of green jet fuels in Mexico and Brazil. These projects and many others provide renewable and energy efficient options in Latin America and the Caribbean, giving citizens the tools to make energy choices that combat climate change.


In a July 2014 interview with OFID Quarterly, IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno, who is on the advisory board of SE4ALL Americas, discussed the profound impact of sustainable energy on development and quality of life. He explained that, “Sustainable energy is the missing development goal. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon always says that ‘energy is the golden thread’ in development. Access to energy plays an important role in eradicating poverty, reducing infant mortality, improving education, promoting gender equality, increasing access to quality medical care, and attaining environmental sustainability. We’re very close to achieving universal access to electricity in Latin America and the Caribbean. But moving from 95% to 100% means giving access to 30 million people and will require an even larger investment and a new set of solutions. The goal is to ensure sustainable energy for all.”


by: Arnaldo Vieira de Carvalho, Lead Energy Specialist, Energy Division, Inter-American Development Bank, and Alice Driver, Consultant for Sustainable Energy for All Americas



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