Tamara J Gordy

Facilitating sustainable environmental and social impact


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Sustainable energy for all

In the spirit of the Rio+20 Conference, it seemed a good time to share the goals of the United Nations “Sustainable Energy For All” initiative.

  1. Ensure universal access to modern energy services

1.3 billion people – that is 1 in every 5 people around the globe – do not have electricity to light their homes or conduct business. Twice that number—nearly 40% of the world’s population—rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste to cook their food—breathing in toxic smoke that causes lung disease and kills nearly two million people a year, most of them women and children.

Access to modern energy is essential to reducing poverty, improving women’s and children’s health, and broadening the reach of education.

2. Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is such an obvious winner that it is sometimes hard to believe that there are people who argue against it, but then politics is politics.  Energy efficiency saves money, improves business results, and generally delivers more for less.

Energy use in the U.S.
Image from: http://bit.ly/KSgzK8

Commercial and residential refrigerators cost the same but use less energy; planes, trains and automobiles travel further on less fuel; and buildings need less energy to heat and cool.

3. Double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

Renewable energy sources

Increasing the share of energy from renewable sources can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut local pollution, protect economies from volatility in fuel prices, and avoid over-reliance on risky supply chains.

In 2011, investment in electricity from  wind, sun, waves and biomass grew to $187 billion as compared to $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal.

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Back in my day

Do you remember the Rio Earth Summit in 1992?  Landmark agreements were made – Agenda 21, Forest Principles, and the Declaration on Environment & Development.

We’ve seen loads of progress since that time.  Nonetheless this weeks’ Rio+20 also offers a stark reminder of the difference between promise and follow-through when it comes to international agreements. Many goals and promises stand unfulfilled.

Rio+20 is sometimes thought of as kicking off a decade of environmental awareness.  But instead of getting stronger, American Public Media’s Marketplace program reports that surveys indicate that millenials, or people born between the late ’70s and early ’90s, report much lower levels of concern for the environment than do Gen X and older groups. Many report that they do not engage in any sort of personal action to conserve energy or protect the environment.

Is it true that caring about the world we live in is fading out of style? What can we do to engage more members of this up and coming generation in the issues that so deeply affect us?