Energy and the United Nations

Written by Laura Braun, ESLLC 2016-2017

The conservation of energy has become not only a world-wide problems but also a world wide controversy. 3 billion people lack access to affordable, modern energy services for cooking, heating and productive uses, more than 1.5 billion people lack access to electricity, and smoke from polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting, and heating devices kills nearly 2 million people every year, primarily women and children. Despite the clear urgency of this situation, nations and individuals are still arguing against energy conservation and sustainability. Therefore, the opinion and actions of certain international and influential organizations on the topic of energy generation and usage has become vital in order to help the world tackle these issues.

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization that was found in 1945 and has the current ability to take action against issues that are confronting humanity, such as peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food production, and more. Many of these issues has ties with the topic of energy and therefore the UN has a huge potential to take a stand and make a difference. So what are their thoughts on this issue and what are they planning on doing?

One thing that really stands out when looking at what the UN is doing, is their list of 17 sustainable development goals that claim to have the ability to change the world. Specifically, their 7th goal is to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. The UN is driven to reach this goal specifically because they note that one in five people still lacks access to modern electricity, 3 billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating, energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing the carbon intensity of energy is a key objective in long-term climate goals. Along with this seemingly broad goal, they have written a paper on why affordable and clean energy matters and have written up a feasible plan on how to achieve this goal. The United Nations is committed to :

  • By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
  • By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  • By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology
  • By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programs of support.

If they achieve these goals and follow through on their upkeep, this has the ability to do wonders for some of the most influential nations in the world.

Apart from these goals, the United Nations actually has created an agency within itself with the sole-focus of Energy problems and planning. The UN-Energy faction is essentially the United Nation’s “mechanism for inter-agency collaboration in the field of energy” and was created in 2004 to help “ensure coherence in the United Nations system’s multidisciplinary response to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), and to support countries in their transition to sustainable energy.” (UN – Energy). This organization has three main missions. One is to promote coherence in the UN by acting as a gateway for sharing information/practices/initiatives, maintaining an overview of current and planned work concerning sustainable energy practices, promoting joint programming, building on and drawing from past experiences concerning inter-agency energy collaborations, and employing different and dynamic approaches to such a coordination. Another mission is to promote interaction between stakeholders by developing a data base, developing/maintaining mechanisms for information exchange, and by organizing a regular exchange of views in the field on energy. The last mission of this faction is to focus on “substance and collaborative actions both in regard to policy development in the energy area and its implementation as well as in maintaining an overview of major ongoing initiatives within the system based on the UN-Energy work programme at global, regional sub-regional and national levels.” (UN – Energy). In summation, this program has the ability to create a coherency between international energy initiatives and plans throughout the world in order to encourage progress and efficiency.

All in all, the United Nations has indeed created some dynamic plans, goals, and organizations that have the ability to change our energy deficit and help conserve and sustain out energy levels. However, many of these plans were maintained and created throughout the Obama Administration in the USA, so it is unsure how the US is going to uphold these ideas in the upcoming Trump administration. It will be interesting/potentially horrible destructive to see how this nation continues to interact with the UN and their perspectives (especially concerning energy).


“Overview.” United Nations. United Nations, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. – “Sustainable Development Goals: 17 Goals to Transform Our World.” United Nations. United Nations, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

“Sustainable Energy for All.” United Nations Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

“UN – Energy – Mission and Activities.” UN – Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.


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