• Road to Rio: Nations on a mission for sustainable energy for all | Veerle Vandeweerd

    08 May 2012

    Solar panel in front of tent
    Solar panels provide clean energy in remote places. UN Photo

    Jamaica is on a mission for sustainable energy for all. The government spent US$2.2 billion – or 40 percent - of its foreign exchange earnings importing fossil fuels in 2011. To make a change Jamaicans turned to the nature around them – sun, waterfalls and rivers – and invested in renewable energy. By 2030, 30 percent of Jamaica’s energy will now come from renewables.

    Jamaica is one of 29 Small Island Development States (SIDS) that came together at the Achieving Sustainable Energy for All Conference in Barbados this week to share their determination to be free from dependence on fossil fuels. Just weeks ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development or ‘Rio+20’, these nations, with some of the highest energy bills in the world, put forward a list of commitments to change.

    By 2029, Barbados will reduce its fossil fuel bill by US$283million, Mauritius will increase the share of renewable energy to 35 percent or more by 2025; and Seychelles committed to produce 15 percent of energy from renewables by 2030.

    Timor Leste set out its timeline: by 2015, no households in the capital will need to use firewood for cooking; by 2020, 50 percent of energy will come from renewables; and by 2030, all families will have electricity 24 hours-a-day.

    Each of these commitments, put forth in the Barbados Declaration, illustrates that change for a more inclusive, sustainable future is not only possible but practical.  

    These nations are writing the stories of their future. They forecast a time when respiratory illness from cooking over smoky stoves is no longer a primary cause of death; a time when girls can go to school instead of collecting firewood, and students have enough light to study through the night if they choose so.

    I am sure my colleague Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, the head of the UN offices in Barbados, will forgive me if I steal from her the following line: “No army in the world is strong enough against an idea whose time has come”. I am convinced. The time has come for sustainable energy for all.

    Talk to us: How can we achieve sustainable energy for all without damaging our planet?