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 Full text 
Thursday, 2 February 2012 - Brussels OJ edition

EU development cooperation in support of the objective of universal energy access by 2030 (short presentation)

  Norbert Neuser, rapporteur.(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the beginning of 2012 is a timely occasion for the report on universal energy access, as the United Nations General Assembly has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.

To me and to all my fellow Members who worked with me on this report in committee, two facts are particularly important. The first is that we want renewable energy. The second is that we want everyone to have access to these new sources of energy. Consequently, these sources of energy must be affordable by everyone.

In the Committee on Development, we worked together very constructively, including with NGOs. In this connection, particular mention must be made of the London-based organisation, Practical Action, and of Sweden’s Stockholm Environment Institute. Our secretariat also provided us with vigorous support in finding ways in which we can forge ahead with universal access to renewable energy.

Allow me to clarify once more what we are talking about here. At present, 1.3 billion people live without electricity. A total of 2.7 billion people use biomass to cook, on improvised stoves. The vast majority of these live in rural areas, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and India. To give just one example: 20% of the population of Kenya has access to the grid, but only 5% of the rural population.

Access to energy brings not only light and power, but also – and above all – cooking facilities and heating. Yet access to energy is still not a Millennium Development Goal. Without access to it, however, it will be difficult to achieve our Millennium Development Goals. That is why we call in the report for renewable energy to be included in the post-2015 MDGs.

It is hard to see how schools, training facilities, health centres and hospitals could exist or function without electricity. Cooking and heating with biomass causes millions of deaths each year in shacks, as a result of harmful smoke. Many of Africa’s governments have therefore banned the use of coal for cooking and heating, for climate and health reasons. In practice, however, those responsible have to look the other way when coal is produced and sold.

We very much welcome the fact that, in its Agenda for Change, the Commission has included energy as a guiding priority. Allow me, therefore, to summarise our key demands in the report once more. We call on the EU and the Member States to support the UN goals of universal access to energy by 2030 and to align their policies accordingly. We call on the Commission to focus on small, local renewable energy projects, because only then will it be possible to reach the majority of the population. More money should be made available for this. The European Investment Bank and the other European development banks are not geared towards small, local energy projects. That has to change; universal energy access should be prominently represented in the Rio+20 process. Finally, universal energy access should be included as a Millennium Development Goal post-2015.

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