Statement by Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the opening of the 15th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development
New York, 30 April 2007

Minister Al-Attiyah,
Distinguished Delegates and Participants,

The topics before us at this session of the Commission on Sustainable Development—energy for sustainable development, industrial development, atmosphere/air pollution, and climate change—are at the centre of current international debates. By examining the interlinkages among them and potential co-benefits, this gathering can craft thoughtful, focused policy decisions to advance progress on several fronts: among others, providing affordable, modern energy services to the poor; helping countries industrialize on the basis of cleaner production processes; and designing energy systems that contribute to confronting the global challenge of climate change.

How to guarantee access of the poor to modern energy services is the first challenge that this Commission should address. Indeed, access to modern energy services is necessary for eradicating poverty and for achieving all the Millennium Development Goals. This means providing access to energy for the 1.6 billion people without electricity and the 2.4 billion people lacking modern energy services for cooking and heating. Additional resources, as well as innovative financing and improved energy service delivery, are urgently needed. The World Bank’s Clean Energy Investment and Development Framework is one such contribution to improving funding for access to energy, while CSD Partnerships are helping to build capacities and engage in work on-the-ground for improving energy access. We need many more initiatives in these directions.

Effective action on modern energy access would also reduce indoor air pollution and improve health prospects for women and children exposed to harmful smoke and particles on a daily basis. And it would improve prospects for education and income generation in rural areas. One of the measures of this session’s success will be its producing policy decisions and agreement on practical measures that will result in people actually gaining access to modern energy services.

On climate change, the science is now absolutely clear: the warming of the climate system is unequivocal and attributable to human activities, to use the terms of the recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Other analyses, including the Stern report, show that the cost of taking action now is far less than if we delay. The effects of climate change range from agricultural impacts to sea-level rise, accelerated erosion of coastal zones, increased storm intensity, and the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria. These, in turn, will have serious implications for food security, access to safe drinking water, and health, as well as for economic growth prospects. The poorest countries and populations—those least able to afford adaptation measures—are expected to suffer earliest and most from climate change.

Current patterns of consumption and production are not sustainable. Some solutions highlight the role that existing and advanced technologies can play to overcome this trend. We need a major policy push to promote energy efficiency; to generate new energy technologies; and to promote advanced and cleaner technologies, including from both renewable sources and fossil fuels, which will continue to play a dominant role in the global energy mix. We need more research and development to make existing renewable technologies economically viable. And we need to promote the rapid diffusion of technology, including through technological cooperation between industrialized and developing countries. Estimates indicate that global investment in energy-related research and development projects should at least double, and investment in development and deployment of new low-carbon technologies must increase five-fold.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol is the multilateral framework to deal with climate change. The decisions taken at this session should complement and reinforce that framework by supporting policies and measures that yield sustainable development benefits. Deployment and transfer of advanced and cleaner energy technologies and energy efficiency technologies can boost economic productivity, reduce local and regional air pollution, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions—all at the same time.

The IPCC report has also put in sharp relief the need for greater attention to adaptation, especially in the developing world, if we are to make lasting progress towards achieving internationally agreed development goals. The Panel has noted that few plans for promoting sustainable development explicitly include either adapting to climate change impacts or promoting adaptive capacity. Adaptation faces a major investment challenge. Investigation of new and innovative sources of financing, not least through the carbon market, can play a part in ensuring that vulnerable communities are able to cope and that impacts are managed as much as possible.

On this front, an enhanced longer-term carbon market is essential. It ensures the most cost-effective instrument in meeting mitigation commitments, by creating appropriate price signals to direct private investment. And it provides both incentives and financing for developing countries to participate in the mitigation agenda, through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). One major constraint, however, has been the difficulty faced by LDCs in participating. It is thus important to intensify action to support low-income countries, especially those in Africa, to benefit from the CDM, including through the Nairobi framework.

Enhanced international energy cooperation can help to reduce price volatility and keep oil and gas markets working efficiently. By reducing uncertainty, it can also help to stimulate investment—not only in oil and gas, but also in advanced and cleaner energy technologies. The dialogue between energy producing and energy consuming countries must continue and could perhaps do so usefully within the broad concept of energy interdependence.

Minister Al-Attiyah,
Distinguished Delegates and Participants,

Industrial development has been a major contributor to economic growth and poverty reduction over the past half century, notably in Asia, but remains elusive elsewhere, particularly in Africa. The early de-industrialization in many developing countries in the last two decades of the twentieth century was thus a major blow to development. Fortunately, the strong industrial development of East and South Asia is now having important spill-over effects, notably through strong demand and buoyant prices of many primary commodities. This has caused growth to accelerate recently in most developing countries, raising significant numbers of people out of poverty.

Yet, for industrial development to contribute to sustainable development, it not only needs to yield sustained improvements in productivity and per capita incomes. It also needs to be socially inclusive and environmentally sound.

Even though industrial technologies are today much more efficient and cleaner than they were a few decades ago, countries that have achieved rapid industrialization have struggled to cope with environmental degradation. Decisions made in this meeting can help current and future industrializers to address this challenge more proactively, making use of the latest available technologies and best policy practices.

A focus on skill- and job creation, especially for low-skilled members of the workforce, is a fundamental ingredient of an inclusive industrial policy. Assessing successful industrial transformations and the impacts of industrial policy on employment also requires examining the linkages, within and across sectors. Many of the new jobs created by dynamic industrial development may be in a growing service sector or agricultural sector. And, in the latter case, biofuels can contribute to both industrial development and energy for sustainable development.

Governments can support industrialization by promoting these linkages and by stimulating innovation in a number of ways. Entrepreneurs need to be assured that they can expect to reap rewards from pioneering new branches of industry and developing new markets. This can be facilitated by governments’ willingness to share part of the costs of innovation, through such vehicles as tax incentives for research and development, venture capital funds and development financing, and government-supported business incubators.

Minister Al-Attiyah,
Distinguished Delegates,

This session of the Commission marks a full 20 years since the publication of “Our Common Future”, a report that has fundamentally changed our strategic perspective and our approach to development. We owe to it the vision we now share of development as an integrated process that balances social, economic, and environmental concerns. We will have the opportunity to interact with Ms. Gro Harlem Brundtland during the high-level session. It is my hope that we celebrate this anniversary by taking concrete policy decisions to spur action on energy, industrial development, air pollution/atmosphere and climate change—decisions that move us firmly and much further along the path towards achieving sustainable development goals.

I am also pleased to note the continued and very active participation in the Commission’s work by civil society, NGOs, and the private sector, represented this year by Business Action for Energy. Major groups are more than ever instrumental in implementing decisions taken by the Commission and in ensuring that sustainable development goals are achieved. And many of them, as well as several of our UN agency partners and other international institutions, will be engaged both in the activities of the Commission and the multiple parallel fora, which have become a hallmark of the CSD.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your support and that of the Bureau in the run up to this session. And I look forward to a most productive outcome.