Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the 11th International Energy Forum
Rome, 22 April 2008

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This meeting takes place at a time of serious socio-economic and environmental challenges. Many are directly or indirectly linked to energy, the focus of this meeting. A sustainable energy future depends on reliable supplies of energy.

“Moving towards a sustainable energy future” sounds well and good, but what does it really mean? The United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development recently undertook an in-depth review and assessment of “energy for sustainable development” and “climate change” and its deliberations shed some light on this subject. The Commission highlighted the need to improve access to sustainable energy services by the poor. It noted that access to energy underpins the ability to achieve sustainable development, and all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

At present, 1.6 billion people live without electricity. Some 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass fuel sources to cook their meals and heat their homes, which can be damaging to their health, especially for children. Securing access to safe, affordable and modern energy is one of the critical steps out of poverty and towards sustainable development.

As we have discussed, the world’s primary energy needs are projected to grow by 55 per cent between 2005 and 2030, at an average annual rate of 1.8 per cent per yeari. And fossil fuels are projected to remain the dominant source of primary energy.

High energy prices are attributable to a number of factors, as we have heard during these past few days. These include fluctuating commercial stock levels, geopolitical tensions and adverse weather conditions that have affected production, as well as growing demand from emerging economies. The weakening of the U.S. dollar has also played a role, and some put blame on speculators in the financial markets.

Currently economic growth in many regions remains robust, but the effect of an economic slowdown in the United States is causing uncertainty. And high oil prices are affecting many countries, in terms of trade and fiscal balances and inflationary pressure.

Volatility in energy markets poses risks to both energy consuming and producing countries. Energy import-dependent countries – especially land-locked, least-developed and small-island developing countries – are concerned about the adverse impacts of energy prices on their economies. Export-dependent energy producers have concerns about slowing global growth and threats of recession.

High energy prices also jeopardize the ability of the poor to move from consuming traditional biomass, which often requires no cash outlay, to modern energy services which are becoming more expensive. Those who have only recently begun using modern energy services may now find them unaffordable. Since access to energy is necessary for achieving the MDGs, these important goals are threatened. Moving towards a sustainable energy future now requires targeted action aimed at ensuring access to energy by the poor.

Many factors will shape our energy future, but climate change is set to dominate them all. The Secretary-General has called it one of the defining challenges of our time. Mounting an effective global response to climate change means that we can no longer take a business-as-usual approach to energy. We need decisively to accelerate the de-carbonization of the world economy, without undermining efforts to advance economic and social development.

To do this, we must accelerate deployment of advanced and cleaner technologies as a priority. Realizing the potential of technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, requires moving rapidly from pilot projects to full-scale deployment. The enormous potential of energy efficiency technologies and measures has only begun to be exploited. Buildings, vehicles, appliances and industrial equipment all offer opportunities for efficiency improvements.

Government and the private sector working together is critical for innovation, deployment and dissemination of advanced and cleaner technology. Technology cooperation will be vital for developing countries to have access to these technologies that will enable them to pursue a low-carbon development path.

International financial institutions and other international organizations can provide essential financial and technological support. Various proposals concerning the funds to support the deployment of advanced and cleaner technology in developing countries are timely and deserve our full consideration.

South-South cooperation on energy and technology transfer can also play a role in addressing the challenges that we face today. Initiatives such as the OPEC Fund offer concrete examples of cooperation to advance the achievement of sustainable development goals. Such initiatives could be duplicated and promoted by other energy producing and exporting countries that are able to do so.

I am pleased to inform you that China has recently agreed to host an international conference to better explore some of these issues with a view to making a contribution to the next climate change COP in December. The Beijing International Conference on Climate Change and Technology Cooperation organized by China and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs hopes to:

  • Explore the role of technology in combating climate change in the context of sustainable development;
  • Highlight partnerships and accelerated technology transfer initiatives;
  • Serve as a platform for launching new partnerships, activities or projects; and
  • Contribute to strengthening international technology cooperation for the development and deployment of low-carbon and other mitigation and adaptation technologies.

Let me take this opportunity to invite you to participate.

Our shared energy future will benefit from fair, transparent and stable energy markets; cooperation among energy-consumers and producers; improved oil and gas data; and an international environment that facilitates investment in energy infrastructures.

The International Energy Forum has a major role in enhancing the producer-consumer dialogue on oil and natural gas. Through the Joint Oil Data Initiative (JODI), the Forum has made a practical contribution to improving oil and gas data exchange, thus promoting transparency in the energy market.

Moving towards a sustainable energy future is a collective challenge for all countries and stakeholders. I am confident that the Forum will build on the solid foundation of its achievements so far, including by addressing issues such as how to encourage access to modern energy services. By doing so, you could extend your impact and further address pressing global issues.

Thank you.

i IEA-World Energy Outlook-2007