Today my daughter starts 6th Form. A fully fledged, almost grown up, teenager with great ambitions for the future, a pragmatic approach to school work and a huge capacity for friendship. I am a very proud mum.
I’ve just been looking for an image for a report cover and, given today I am thinking slightly anxiously about my daughter and school, one of them touched my heart. It showed a group of school boys, their work spread out all around them, parents standing rejoicing in the background all because the school had electricity for the first time. It was a very happy image.
Energy is a facilitator of change.
Talking a while ago with Helen Clark former Prime Minister of New Zealand who now runs UNDP she expressed hesitancy about energy either as a Millennium Development Goal (which it’s not – but is recognised as an enabler) or as part of the new Sustainable Development Goals to be agreed from 2015 onwards. Her argument was that access to energy helps people do things rather than being an end in itself.
While I have great respect for her as an international leader and can understand the logic of her argument the reality of MDGs and hopefully the SDGs is that they focus attention. We need to focus attention of energy access for poverty reduction. So energy access needs to be a sustainable Development Goal. Or at least that’s my logic!
I was going to write a long list of why access to decent energy is important – but thinking about it I’ll ask you to do two things instead
• Think about your life and what it would be like if you didn’t have electricity, if you had to walk 5 miles a day to collect firewood, if every time you cooked your kitchen filled with potentially lethal smoke – yet you and your kids had to stay there while you cooked – if you knew the value of education as a route out of poverty but you couldn’t find a way for your kids to study in the evening, and if sometimes your children had to miss school as they took grain on the day long trip to the mill (you couldn’t leave the younger children or the farm), if you had no car, no hair dryer, no gas cooker, no hot water for tea!
• Think about the picture I described earlier – the boys rejoicing in electricity coming to their classrooms
David Cameron is a co-chair of the High Level Panel that will advise on the global development agenda post 2015 – we need to find ways to remind him that energy is vital for poverty reduction. Anyone got any great ideas – I’d love to hear!