Power to the People: Kandeh Yumkella Shares Strategies for Making Energy Accessible
July 7, 2014 Editor 0
Photo Credit: Micaela Ayala V/Agencia Andes. Creative Commons.
When the subject is energy and climate change, Kandeh Yumkella doesn’t hold back.
“Climate change makes it more urgent to take action on global energy systems—otherwise, we are all condemned to climate hell,” the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) says in the new issue of Handshake, the World Bank Group’s quarterly journal on public-private partnerships. Yumkella, appointed co-chair of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in 2012 alongside World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, sees the inequity of the global economic system through the lens of climate change – “the biggest risk multiplier,” as he calls it, pointing out that those who pollute the least will suffer the most from “business as usual.”
An aversion to “business as usual” pervades his approach to the Sustainable Energy for All initiative – in fact, even his position is new to the UN. But he’s no stranger to the issue of energy poverty and its link to income poverty. For over a decade, he’s been arguing that poor developing countries, particularly those in Africa, can’t achieve their economic targets without access to energy. This belief underpins
SE4ALL’s three goals: to achieve universal energy access, double the share of renewable energy in the global mix, and double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. The SE4ALL post is significant, he tells Handshake, “because suddenly the UN believed we must institutionalize these issues in the context of ongoing development discussions.”
That means a big part of Yumkella’s job now is convincing government officials who may not intuitively understand the link, or make access to energy a priority. These leaders focus on energy for economic growth, so Yumkella makes a point to introduce the social dimensions of energy with data that impacts GDP. For example, he emphasizes the fact that girls in certain developing countries might spend 20 hours per week collecting firewood and water, pointing out that if they had solar powered pumps, it would save enough time that they could do the job and attend school. “This is the way to humanize the energy debate,” Yumkella believes.
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