Speaking to energy industry leaders in Singapore Wednesday, Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said 675 million people in Asia still have no access to modern energy, despite the region's rapid economic growth.
While global energy demand is expected to rise 33 percent from 2010-35, she said, 50 percent of that increase is expected to come from China and India.
"We need a new Asian energy compact -- a game-changer -- to ensure universal access to modern energy sources, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, significantly improve energy efficiency and more than double the share of renewables in the Asian energy mix by 2030," she said in a statement.
Heyzer's speech was part of a "Rio+20" program organized by the Singapore government's Energy Market Authority, ahead of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development meeting to be June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro.
The gathering will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 U.N. Rio Earth Summit, which, that pivoted the environmental movement into the mainstream.
"Connecting the dots between the challenges of water, food and energy security lies at the heart of sustainable development. And Rio+20 will be a generational opportunity for us to turn ideas into action, globally, and especially, in Asia and the Pacific," she said.
Heyzer called for a "fundamental 'reset' of the global development agenda," noting that for Asia, this means changing the patterns of energy production, transmission and consumption.
"Asian growth currently depends on fossil fuels for 80 percent of our primary energy supply. With increasingly volatile commodity prices and the negative impacts of carbon-intensive growth on our environment, we need a transformation of our regional economic systems -- and this must be driven by the energy sector," Heyzer said.
She also announced that ESCAP will have an Asia-Pacific energy forum in Vladivostok, Russia, in May 2013.
In his opening speech, Chee Hong Tat, chief executive of Singapore's Energy Market Authority, noting that the region has abundant fossil fuel resources, said Asian countries are facing increased pressure to lower their carbon footprint.
"It is therefore important for us to address sustainable energy models for future development," he said.
Because of the island state's limited resources, he said, energy efficiency features prominently in Singapore's domestic policy.
To meet Singapore's long-term sustainable development needs, he said, the government has funded $195 million for energy research and development.