(EnergyAsia, May 2 2012, Wednesday) — Asia needs a new energy compact to balance sustainable development with its pursuit of economic growth, according to top UN Asia-Pacific official.

At a recent forum attended by policymakers in Singapore, Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said:

“The Asia-Pacific economy is an engine of growth, but to keep it running we need cleaner, more sustainable, more accessible energy.

“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.”

Her remarks formed part of a lecture titled “Rio+20: Implications for energy access and sustainable development in Asia”, as part of the Distinguished Speaker Programme organised by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) of Singapore.

The lecture comes ahead of next month’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development, to be hosted in Brazil.

Dr Heyzer said: “Rio+20 is the best chance of this generation to make growth more inclusive, and to ensure that it respects the limits of our world. We require nothing less than a fundamental ‘re-set’ of the global development agenda – and in Asia that also means changing the patterns of energy production, transmission and consumption.”

Global energy demand is predicted to grow by 33% between 2010 and 2035 – with 50% of that increase in demand expected from China and India alone.

“Asian growth currently depends on fossil fuels for 80% of our primary energy supply. With increasingly volatile commodity prices and the negative impacts of carbon-intensive growth on our environment, we need a transformation of our regional economic systems – and this must be driven by the energy sector,” said Dr Heyzer.

2012 has been declared by the UN General Assembly as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, and the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has launched a global Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.

The ESCAP Executive Secretary also highlighted the link between universal access to energy and key international development goals.

“One in five people in the world still do not have access to modern energy services. Widespread energy poverty condemns billions to darkness, to ill-health and to missed opportunities. It is inequitable and unsustainable.”

“We must end this indignity and inefficiency, but we must do so in a way that is smart and sustainable, so that it protects natural resources and the eco-systems on which we depend for survival.”

The world body will be working with countries in the region to explore the potential for developing an integrated regional power grid, among other initiatives to address issues of energy security and sustainability in the Asia Pacific.

“Providing sustainable energy to all, offers benefits for developed and developing countries alike. 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,” said Dr Heyzer.

She also announced that ESCAP will convene a high-level Asia-Pacific energy forum in Vladivostok on May 27 to 30 May next year.