Can the UN's Goals of Expanding Energy Access While Curtailing Global Warming be Reconciled?

"The United Nations has set two huge energy-related goals for the coming century," says Brad Plumer. While bringing electricity to 1.3 billion people without it and curtailing fossil fuel use seem to be at odds, the U.N. has a plan to achieve both.
March 11, 2013, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Last year, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon unveiled his “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative, which aims to bring electricity to 1.3 billion people by 2030, and double the amount of renewable energy in the world, and double the pace at which the world gets more energy-efficient," reports Plumer. "The estimated price tag? Some $48 billion per year, financed by the private sector, governments and the public sector."

"In theory, assuming this plan was doable, it could be compatible with those broader climate goals. At least, that’s the conclusion of a recent study in Nature Climate Change, which found the world would still have a good chance of staying below 2°C if it achieved all three of these goals by 2030. (But, the modelers caution, those three goals wouldn’t be sufficient; limits on carbon emissions would likely also prove necessary. See Alex Kirby’s write-up for more detail.)"

"That said, other experts are skeptical that tackling climate change and energy poverty at once is as easy as it sounds," adds Plumer. "Roger Pielke Jr., an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado, has pointed out that the international community’s definition of 'modern energy access' tends to be pitiful — it means providing people with a mere 2.2 percent of the energy that the average American uses."

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Published on Sunday, March 10, 2013 in The Washington Post
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