Thousands of policy makers, campaigners and activists have descended on Rio de Janeiro this week. They are talking about the issues that matter for them, and debating tweaks in the words and phrases included in the ‘outcome document’.
From a Practical Action perspective, we have a small, but hopefully influential team taking part in debates and events pressing for our vision for ‘Universal Energy Access’. That means addressing the situation where billions of poor people still don’t have the energy they need to light their homes, cook meals safely and earn a living. We have a vision for Total Energy Access based on an understanding of energy needs from the perspective of the poor people we have worked with over the past 30 years and more. For them, ‘energy access’ is not just about how much electricity a country generates, or even about having their own electricity connection – it is about having daily use of the energy they need for their wellbeing – for lighting, cooking and water heating, space heating, cooking, information and communications and earning a living. People need a range of energy technologies, services and supplies to avoid darkness, drudgery and ill health in the household.
To make that happen, change is urgently needed to:
• Improve the policy environment so that it supports poor people
• Boost capacity to deliver more and better quality energy technologies; and
• Ramp up the volume and types of energy financing that support access
Here’s our policy brief with more information about those issues.
However, I can’t help but agree with Matthew Lockwood of IDS who says that “sustainable development targets will only work if they engage with the realities of national politics”. In other words – the real work starts once Rio ends and people get back to their countries. The UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative will be working at country level to help put together National Implementation plans. All of Practical Action’s countries of operation are included in the list of 40 focal countries for the initiative. We are keen to engage because we have plenty to contribute about how change can really be brought about for the people who need it most.