|Energy as it relates to Poverty Alleviation and Environmental Protection (UNDP, 1998, 36 p.)|
Poverty has received scant attention from an energy perspective. This is most remarkable given that energy is central to the satisfaction of basic nutrition and health needs, and that energy services constitute a sizeable share of total household expenditure among the poorest households in developing countries. Energy is not an end in itself, but rather a means to achieve the goal of sustainable human development. Although low energy consumption is not a cause of poverty, the lack of available energy services correlates closely with many poverty indicators. Nearly 2 billion people - about a third of humanity - continue to rely on biomass fuels and traditional technologies for cooking and heating, and about 1.5-2 billion people have no access to electricity.
Current approaches to energy are not sustainable and will, in fact, make energy a barrier to socio-economic development, especially for people living in poverty. What is needed now is a major reorientation toward sustainable energy technologies, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cleaner conventional fuels. The availability of new energy technologies offers the prospect of low-cost, localized solutions to national energy concerns.
This paper examines the importance of energy in addressing poverty eradication and environmental regeneration in light of key elements of the debate, current experiences and appropriate policy instruments. The authors explore energy's relationship to various facets of the poverty-environment nexus, including health issues, economic concerns, social welfare issues, and environmental degradation, and suggest a series of concrete policy measures designed to promote energy services that will lead to poverty eradication and environmental regeneration. Their persuasive argument for sustainable energy is enhanced by a series of examples illustrating strategies that have been successful in improving energy services for people living in poverty.
United Nations Development Programme and European Commission