Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the High-Level Conference on Reliable and Stable Transit of Energy and its Role in Ensuring Sustainable Development and International Cooperation
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 23 April 2009

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it gives me great pleasure to address this distinguished forum.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Turkmenistan for initiating the General Assembly Resolution on “Reliable and Stable Transit of Energy and its Role in Ensuring Sustainable Development and International Cooperation”, which was co-sponsored by 58 countries and adopted by consensus. The conference provides a timely occasion to follow up on the Assembly resolution, and to review both the progress made and challenges remaining.

I would also like to thank President Berdimuhamedov for opening this Conference. His statement was rich in thought-provoking ideas. I am sure it will shape our discussions in important ways over the next two days.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Reliable and stable energy transit unites the interests of developed as well as developing countries; exporters as well as importers. All countries have an interest in the rapid development and deployment of energy transit infrastructure, as well as in the development of fair trade rules – thereby enhancing country capacities to export and import energy resources.

The General Assembly resolution seeks to ensure the security of energy supplies across national borders, grounded in international cooperation, and therefore to ensure reliable and stable transit of energy. Importing countries need to feel secure in the knowledge that their access to energy will not be disrupted abruptly. Exporting countries that rely on revenue from energy exports also want to feel secure that there will be no abrupt disruptions in their incomes.

The ultimate goal of stable and reliable transit of energy, whether for trade or consumption, is to ensure continued progress towards sustainable development. In this regard, access to clean, reliable and affordable sources of energy is vital. Abrupt decline in energy availability can stop the economic engine of development in its tracks. Energy is critical for human development, including for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Yet, the vast majority of countries lack access to modern energy.

Nations have long sought to ensure the security of trade and transit. In this region, the trading caravans passed along the Great Silk Road linking East and West, passing through Turkmenistan and other countries of the region. Trade and development prospects are intrinsically linked, especially in the modern era, especially because international trade has come to be seen as a strong engine of economic growth.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A viable strategy for energy production, trade and consumption must identify measures to secure sustainable energy development.

Energy transit requires investment in infrastructure. Projections from the International Energy Agency give a sense of the scale of investments needed in energy infrastructure by 2030 – 22 trillion dollars in total, including 2.1 trillion in countries with economies in transition.

Attracting adequate capital will require proper governance, appropriate policies and creation of efficient markets. Effective energy sector governance can help stimulate investment not only in energy transit infrastructure, but also in energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner energy technologies. The establishment of common and transparent rules in operation of energy markets can play an important role in this regard.

Looking ahead, it is clear that the global economic crisis will only have a temporary effect on the growth in energy consumption. Strengthened international cooperation can help reduce energy price volatility, reducing uncertainty and thus facilitating necessary energy investments.

In the longer term, energy-producing countries can draw upon their energy resources to pursue economic diversification. For this, it is essential that the multilateral, regional and bilateral trade and investment rules be designed in a way that enables these countries to design and implement appropriate national development strategies.

Discussion of all energy questions should be guided and informed by a clear understanding of the challenges posed by climate change. While some countries consider energy policies separately from climate change, the two are strongly connected. We must ensure that meeting the priorities in one area does not impede progress towards the objectives in the other. This is effectively done through integrated sustainable development strategies.

Overcoming the barriers to reliable and stable energy transit requires a collective response that is practical, takes into account the needs of all affected countries, and draws on our collective expertise. The choices are not straightforward and will involve compromises.

With proper energy management we can boost economic development and effectively safeguard against future crisis. Stable and reliable energy transit is an engine of international cooperation, trade and investment. Making energy resources available in the world market at affordable prices through bilateral and multilateral cooperation and agreements will support energy trade. The United Nations family stands ready to support you in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This Conference is initiating an important discussion. I look forward to the outcomes and recommendations.

On behalf of the United Nations, I express our profound gratitude for the generosity and graciousness of our hosts, the Turkmenistan Government, and for their excellent organization of this Conference. I wish you all frank and fruitful discussions.

Thank you.