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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: September 2012

Technical Summary



Energy is essential for human development and energy systems are a crucial entry point for addressing the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century, including sustainable economic, and social development, poverty eradication, adequate food production and food security, health for all, climate protection, conservation of ecosystems, peace, and security. Yet, more than a decade into the 21st century, current energy systems do not meet these challenges.

In this context, two considerations are important. The first is the capacity and agility of the players within the energy system to seize opportunities in response to these challenges. The second is the response capacity of the energy system itself, as the investments are long-term and tend to follow standard financial patterns, mainly avoiding risks and price instabilities. This traditional approach does not embrace the transformation needed to respond properly to the economic, environmental, and social sustainability challenges of the 21st century.

A major transformation is required to address these challenges and to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences for human and planetary systems. The GEA identifies strategies that could help resolve the multiple challenges simultaneously and bring multiple benefits. Their successful implementation requires determined, sustained, and immediate action.

The industrial revolution catapulted humanity onto an explosive development path, whereby reliance on muscle power and traditional biomass was replaced mostly by fossil fuels. In 2005, approximately 78% of global energy was based on fossil energy sources that provided abundant and ever cheaper energy services to more than half the world's population.