Last week, the East Coast and much of the United States was feeling an early summer heat wave. While many of our thermometers climb toward three digits, not surprisingly, a lot of us will be cranking the air conditioning as high is it goes so that we can go about our days, maintain our productivity, and engage in the business that moves our economy forward. So what does that have to do with a United Nations energy summit happening more than 4,000 miles away? A lot.
As more than 40,000 people and delegates from nearly 200 countries -- including heads of State, parliamentarians, mayors, U.N. officials, business and civil society leaders -- attended the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development last week, the United States was stepping up to the plate and committing to solutions for a sustainable future that benefits not only our own domestic interests but also powers the global economy. The energy we consume in our everyday lives to strengthen our nation, its commerce and our quality of living -- right down to that pumping AC -- has helped to make us a global economic force. Utilized sustainably, it can also move the entire global economy forward and end energy poverty around the world.
It's time for us to take accountability and play a part -- a large part -- in a global solution to the world's rapidly growing energy needs, and find answers that keep us healthy -- including from an economic standpoint. And that's exactly what's been happening in Rio.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Rio with a mapped-out plan to show that the U.S. is ready to be more than a consumer, but a partner -- and even a leader -- in creating a future of more accessible, more efficient and cleaner energy. The administration is supporting the U.N. Secretary-General's Sustainable Energy For All initiative, providing $2 billion from existing funds in the form of grants, loans and loan guarantees for programs to advance the adoption of clean energy solutions around the globe.
The plan revolves around three core points. First, "technical assistance for improving the enabling environment":
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department are promoting sustainable, low emissions development through a range of clean energy activities that have national, regional, and global components. One major activity involves cooperation with up to 20 countries in developing and implementing low emissions development strategies (LEDS) that emphasize energy efficiency and renewable energy. Other activities include supporting regional energy efficiency and power grid interconnection and market development efforts; promoting regulatory and business policies that create conditions for renewable and clean energy investment; and promoting global efforts to advance new, efficient energy technologies. Continued
Second, "participation in clean energy technology partnerships":
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), supported by funding from the Department of State, serves as the Secretariat for the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), a high-level global forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, to share lessons learned and best practices, and to encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy. Participating governments account for 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 90 percent of global clean energy investment. The CEM's 12 initiatives build on Technology Action Plans that were released by the Major Economies Forum Global Partnership in December 2009, which laid out best practice blueprints for action in key technology areas. Continued
And third, "financing and mobilization of private capital":
The U.S. Department of Treasury is the lead USG agency in the provision of clean energy finance to multilateral climate and clean energy funds including the Clean Technology Fund and the Program for Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries. The U.S. contribution to these funds in FY11 was approximately $195 million for clean energy activities. In addition, approximately $23.4 million of the Treasury FY2011 GEF contribution went toward clean energy activities. Continued
What's more, our government is not alone in making commitments; in addition to the nearly 200 nations participating in the summit, U.S. corporations small and large are taking ownership in solutions as well. Bank of America has set a 10-year, $50 billion environmental business goal, while Microsoft has committed to going carbon neutral, rolling out an internal carbon fee that will apply to business operations in over 100 countries. Meanwhile, companies like Coca-Cola and Levi Strauss & Co. have promised to use water more efficiently, scale back carbon emissions and step up their use of renewable energy.
As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates at the Rio+20 Conference Thursday, "For too long we have we have behaved as though we could indefinitely burn and consume our way to prosperity." His point resonates around the world, and especially here in the U.S. We do need energy to power our future and global economies, and we do need workable, sustainable solutions to make that happen for the long term.
As we sit in our cool homes and offices this week, it's a good time to tune into what's going on in Rio, and be mindful of the work our leaders are doing in partnership with the U.N. and collaboratively with Member States to get us on a global track to a sustainable future -- the future we want. As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon likes to say, "You can't have development without energy, and you can't have sustainable development without sustainable energy."
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