Energizing Rio+20: How the United States Can Promote Sustainable Energy for All at the 2012 Earth Summit (CGD Brief)

Abigail Jones
June 07, 2012

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Economic growth and improved living standards require access to reliable, affordable, convenient, and safe cooking fuels and electricity. Today, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity and roughly 2.7 billion are without access to clean, safe cooking fuel.[1] Securing energy, therefore, is a development imperative. But successfully confronting climate change is too: Global warming is already disproportionately affecting the poor and is threatening to reverse hard-won development gains.

Fortunately, the two goals of ending energy poverty and protecting the climate are compatible. New technologies and emerging expertise are gaining ground; what we’re lacking most are creative and politically feasible partnerships to scale up these efforts and mobilize financial resources. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) provides a useful fulcrum for lifting global ambitions. Here we outline four ways the United States can help:

  1. Support the Secretary-General’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative;
  2. Offer concrete ideas to scale up technical assistance and share best-practice policies;
  3. Commit to develop a new mechanism within existing international financial institutions to connect long-term investors with sustainable-energy investment opportunities; and
  4. Create new initiatives to strengthen the nation’s foreign investment agencies, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im).

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