The United Nations Calls for a New Asia-Pacific Energy Compact

"Connecting the dots between the challenges of water, food, and energy security lies at the heart of sustainable development—and Rio+20 will be a generational opportunity for us to turn ideas into action—globally and especially in Asia and the Pacific." -- Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations{1}

The top UN Asia-Pacific official urged policymakers in the region to create a new "energy compact" to ensure the achievement of both economic growth and sustainable development.

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), made the call during a lecture she delivered as part of the Distinguished Speaker Programme organized by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) in Singapore on April 25.

It is also part of a larger UN initiative, as the UN General Assembly declared 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. And to mark the year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.

Ban's ambitious, yet entirely achievable project has three objectives: 1) ensure universal access to modern energy services; 2) double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and 3) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.{2} 


And while Ban's initiative is global in scope, the Asia-Pacific region is critical to making it a success. With seven of the world's ten most populous countries—China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Russian Federation and Japan—the region is home to more than 60 per cent of the world's population, with 4.1 billion people.{3} That's a lot of carbon footprints.

"We need a new Asian energy compact—a game-changer—to ensure universal access to modern energy sources, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, significantly improve energy efficiency, and more than double the share of renewables in the Asian energy mix by 2030," said Heyzer.{4}

Describing the economy of the Asia-Pacific region as "an engine of growth," she also warned that "to keep it running we need cleaner, more sustainable, more accessible energy."{5} 


The ESCAP has 53 member states and reports to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). But it’s not solely a regional group. In addition to nations in Asia and the Pacific, it includes the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands.

Certainly, some knowlegde sharing from the West could come in handy. But to be sure, sustainable solutions also abound within the region's borders. China, in particular, is a powerhouse in terms of sustainable energy investment, taking over the top spot in terms of total clean energy finance and investment in 2009, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts report, "Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? Growth, Competition and Opportunity in the World's Largest Economies."{6}

Thanks to ambitious targets for wind, solar and biomass, the world's most populous country can lay claim to the title of "world's greenest nation," with nearly $35 billion invested in clean energy. According to the Pew report, The United States fell from first to fifth, spending a mere $18.6 billion—less than Turkey, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Italy.


"Providing sustainable energy to all offers benefits for developed and developing countries alike," said Heyzer. It can enable countries to leapfrog the outdated energy systems of the past—to build the resilient, competitive, clean energy economies of the shared future we want."{7}

She also announced that ESCAP will host an energy forum for the Asia-Pacific region in Vladivostok in May 2013. Sooner on the horizon is the 3rd Annual GreenTech Asia Conference, the leading online platform for the Asia-Pacific sustainable business community, to be held May 23-24 in Kuala Lumpur.{8}

The focus of the conference will be on green building technologies, a theme that will hopefully become a trend, as more people move into cities. By 2050, 70 percent of the world's population will be urban dwellers, with most growth happening in less developed countries.{9}

By 2025, seven of the world's top ten megacities will be in Asia: Tokyo, Dehli, Mumbai, Dhaka, Calcutta, Shanghai and Karachi. If the world is to achieve a sustainable future, the time to start planning for megacities that are green is now (actually, more like yesterday). As Confucius once said, "If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand."



1. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. UN ESCAP Calls for New Regional Energy Compact. April 26, 2012. Accessed April 27, 2012.

2. United Nations. Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. 2012. Accessed April 27, 2012.

3. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Social Policy and Population Section, Population Programme. December 28, 2009. Accessed April 27, 2012.

4. Ibid, 1.

5. Ibid.

6. Pew Charitable Trusts. Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? Growth, Competition and Opportunity in the World's Largest Economies. March 25, 2010. Accessed April 27, 2012.

7. Ibid, 1.

8. Comfori. 3rd Annual GreenTech Asia Conference. March 24, 2012. Accessed April 27, 2012.

9. Population Reference Bureau. Human Population: Urbanization. January 31, 2002. Accessed April 2, 2012.

10. BBC News. Asia to Dominate 21st Century Megacities. June 20, 2011. Accessed April 27, 2012.

image: Shanghai, China (credit: dawvon Wikimedia Commons)