Category Archives: United Nations

2014 UNA-USA Annual Meeting: Dr. Robert Orr on Climate Change

By Weijia Li, UNA-SNY Energy Project

At this year’s UNA-USA Annual Meeting, I had the privilege of listening to a talk by the UN Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Robert Orr, who is also the most senior American at the UN. He focused on and stressed the significance of climate change, for several compelling reasons.

We cannot, he says, advance the Millenium Development Goals if climate change continues at this rate. Climate change affects every piece of the UN agenda and affects everything the UN is trying to do today for everyone, everywhere in the world. It is the underlying factor for peace, security, and development.

However, the UN needs the help of the US. The rest of the world also expects US leadership on climate change. So as Americans, we need to put forth rational energy policies that accelerate the use of renewables and to catalyze a clean energy revolution. Rather than wasting money on temporary fixes, we need to combat climate change directly. This will save us trillions of dollars in the future.

Every year that we delay action on climate change, the cost goes up for mitigating its effects. Even the Middle East has installed clean energy projects. I thought it was particularly compelling when Dr. Orr said, “If the Middle East can see the future, why can’t [the US]?”

The upcoming UN Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York will be the largest gathering of global leaders in history in one place. The Climate Summit is strategically scheduled to occur during this year’s annual Climate Week NYC and one year prior to the 2015 UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in Paris. It is stated that “by catalyzing action on climate change prior to the UNFCCC Conference, the Secretary-General intends to build a solid foundation on which to anchor successful negotiations and sustained progress on reducing emissions and strengthening adaptation strategies.”

My call to action for Americans is to write to your Congressman/woman and Senators to urge the US Mission to the UN to establish concrete goals at this year’s UN Climate Summit.

On a more personal note, I know that Dr. Orr’s wife Audrey Choi leads Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing and Global Sustainable Finance Group. With this in mind, I spoke with Dr. Orr after his talk and asked for his perspective on tackling climate change from the public/NGO sector vs. the private sector. He told me that the two are very different, but to be successful, we need to know both sides because both sides need to work together. This was reminiscent of a similar conversation I had with the Senior Policy Advisor on Energy to the UN Secretary-General.

What this means for all world citizens is that no matter what sector we identify ourselves in, we can make an impact to tackle climate change.

Consultation on Ethanol Cookstoves at the United Nations

By Brandon Huck, UNA-SNY Energy Project

On April 4th, 2013, the Public-Private Alliance Foundation (PPAF) convened a consultation at the United Nations (U.N.) to provide an update on its pilot project involving the use of ethanol cookstoves and fuels in Haiti. The meeting was co-sponsored by PPAF and the UN Office for Partnerships, and included other interested parties, such as Path To Haiti Business Consulting LLC, SImACT, Inc., and Project Gaia, Inc.   The United Nations Association Southern New York State Division and its Energy Project supported the event.

The consultation brought together actors from a variety of sectors and diverse organizations with a goal of discussing the pilot project and coming to agreement on next steps and priorities for its expansion. In addition, the meeting functioned as a vehicle to increase awareness and knowledge among its participants of the benefits and potential of ethanol cookstoves and clean cooking fuels as alternatives to traditional cooking methods and materials in Haiti. In that country, the majority of cooking is still done using charcoal and wood-burning stoves, practices which often result in unclean and unsafe conditions that disproportionately and negatively affect mothers and children by exposing them to serious health and safety risks, such as a higher incidence of respiratory ailments and diseases.

Participants in the consultation met first in a plenary session and then in small groups to discuss the specific challenges and opportunities associated with PPAF’s pilot project, as well as the possibility of broader commercialization of ethanol cookstoves in Haiti. Several presenters referenced the pilot’s unique status as the first project of its kind in Haiti. Through relations with Dometic Group AB – a manufacturer of ethanol cookstoves Project Gaia, Inc., which donated an initial supply of stoves for the pilot –and other partners on the ground in Haiti, PPAF and Path to Haiti have been able to introduce hundreds of Haitians to the ethanol cookstoves. The pilot participants and observers have included low-income mothers, community organization representatives, small business owners, government officials, and employees at a participating hotel, providing for diverse perspectives on the efficacy and usability of the stoves and fuel.

Participants in the consultation learned about the many advantages offered by ethanol cookstoves. One is the ability to tap into a growing desire by Haitians at all societal levels to overcome the poverty-respiratory disease-deforestation trap caused by Haiti’s heavy reliance on cooking with wood or charcoal. As an alcohol-based fuel, ethanol is considered a ‘clean fuel’ and offers a healthier alternative to cooking with petroleum-based fuels. The ethanol cookstoves take less time to cook food versus the traditional methods employed. In addition, clean cookstove models would leverage existing equipment and technology in Haiti, and create a new value stream for farmers and distillers if mass production of ‘fuel-grade’ ethanol alcohol could be made viable.

From an economic perspective, the commercialization of ethanol cookstoves might benefit Haiti more generally. For one, it could spur increased demand and innovation in sugar cane production, which is currently imported in larger quantities than it is grown locally – a surprising fact given Haiti’s long history of sugar cane farming. Furthermore, the transition to ethanol cookstoves may provide an attractive investment option to the Haitian diaspora, who annually give approximately $3 billion to family and friends in Haiti and support various social causes and business enterprises.

Lastly, the pilot project supports the goal of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which aims for100 million households worldwide to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by the year 2020.

UN Announces Energy Decade

Our Energy Blog begain with the 2012 Year of Sustainable Energy for All.  The UNA Southern New York State Division’s Energy Project has a small steering committee which meets bi-monthly.  The group organizes and participates in events related to energy and to sustainable development;  it communicates through unaenergy@googlegroups.com  To join, please send an email to jbs@stratdev.com 

On 21 December 2012 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the decade 2014‑2024 as the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, underscoring the importance of energy issues for sustainable development and for the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda. 

At its March meeting the Division’s Energy Group agreed to support this Decade as a basis for its program and actions in the coming years.  The Energy Group also agreed to support an event to be held at the United Nations on April 4 by the Public-Private Alliance Foundation.  This Consultation on Ethanol Cookstoves and Fuels (with an emphasis on Haiti) focuses on clean energy and reduction of the deforestation that is prevalent in Haiti.  The consultation also will promote use of the ethanol cookstoves and fuel worldwide.