Natural gas, including non-traditional shale gas, should play a major role in cutting greenhouse gases, protecting forests and improving the health and living standards of the world’s poor, the co-head of a U.N. sustainable energy program said on Monday.
Without it, the U.N.’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative will have difficulty meeting goals of ensuring universal energy access, doubling the world’s share of renewable energy and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030, Kandeh Yumkella, co-head of the initiative, told Reuters.
“You can’t save the forest if you don’t have gas,” Yumkella, a native of Sierra Leone, said in an interview on the sidelines of a global development meeting in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s one of the solutions we need to reduce deforestation and reduce the two million people who die every year because of indoor air pollution because they use firewood.”
Yumkella, who is also the head of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, understands his support for natural gas is controversial, but finding the estimated $43 billion a year needed to provide electricity by 2030 to 1.3 billion people, half the number without it today, will be near impossible.
Many attending the U.N. conference, known as the Rio+20 as it comes two decades after a landmark Earth Summit in the city, see the inclusion of natural gas in the initiative as problematic.
Natural gas is a non-renewable hydrocarbon the burning of which creates carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas believed to cause global warming.
“Yumkella is a great man, but his panel is dominated by people who speak for big power industries,” Pasco Sabido, climate adviser to environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe, said in an interview.