At the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, great emphasis was placed on energy efficiency in the Opening Session. That message, and indeed the subject of energy more generally, largely disappeared in the forty chapters and 600 pages of Agenda 21 that emerged from Rio. This situation has largely remained in subsequent UN deliberations. Closer focus on climate change, deforestation, and poverty has failed to produce significant benefits.
By 2010, world carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels had risen over 46% from 1990 levels. Renewable energy projects have been pursued with scant regard for efficiency or costs to users. Still 2.7 billion people-some 40% of the World's population-rely overwhelmingly on traditional biomass; 1.5 billion others have no electricity supply; and a further 1 billion only have sporadic supply. Fossil fuels continue to provide nearly 85% of the World's primary energy, while renewable energy sources provide about 13%-of which traditional biomass accounts for 10.2% and all other renewable resources for only 2.8%. Of this 2.8%, hydropower accounts for 2.3%, wind power for 0.2%, and direct solar energy and geothermal for 0.1% each.
Not one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) produced in 2000 refers to energy. Then in 2005 UNDP, together with the World Bank and ESMAP, produced "Energy Services for the Millennium Development Goals", which pointed out that "failure to include energy considerations in national MDG strategies and development planning frameworks will severely limit the ability to achieve the MDGs." It also stated: "Increased energy efficiency-whether during generation/production, transport/ transmission, or end-use-can have wide-ranging benefits." In 2010, the UN Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) report "Energy for a Sustainable Future" referred to improving energy access and strengthening energy efficiency as the "two priorities". AGECC's Chairman (and Head of UNIDO) stated that "a vast potential for energy efficiency improvements across the supply and delivery chain remains largely untapped." Also in 2010, the UN's General Assembly proclaimed 2012 the International Year for Sustainable Energy. Will there be a new, and more effective, focus on energy and efficiency in its provision and use?