Live Coverage World Summit on Sustainable Development

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
UN Page
Johannesburg, South Africa
26 August-4 September 2002
ENV/DEV/J/7
28 August 2002

Plenary
7th Meeting (PM)


RENEWABLE SOURCES OF ENERGY, CONSERVATION, ENERGY EFFICIENCY AMONG ISSUES
RAISED, AS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT CONTINUES

'Partnership Plenary' Speakers Express Support for Kyoto Protocol,
Targets for Renewable Energy Use, Removal of Fossil Fuel Subsidies

 

Renewable sources of energy, conservation, energy efficiency and subsidies for fossil fuels were among the subjects addressed as the World Summit on Sustainable Development examined a framework for action on energy this afternoon.

Presenting the theme, Stephen Karekezi from the African Energy Policy Research Network in Kenya, focused on the energy needs of the poor and, in particular, of the least developed countries. There was a need, he said, for energy interventions that increased the agricultural productivity of small-scale holders, reduced post-harvest losses and created micro-enterprises for the rural and urban poor.

Minute amounts of cleaner energy could increase the quality of life of poor households, he added. Technologies costing between $50 and $300 were often locally made and sustained through commercial or voluntary community activities. He called for large-scale programmes for dissemination of small-scale, cleaner energy technologies.

This afternoon's "partnership plenary" was the sixth in a series focusing on the five priority areas identified by Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the Summit -- water, energy, health, agricultural production and biodiversity. The interactive plenaries are laying the groundwork for the Summit's high-level segment next week, when more than 100 world leaders will gather to build a commitment to better implement Agenda 21, the roadmap for achieving sustainable development adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development -- the Earth Summit -- held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Also speaking on this afternoon's theme, Thomas B. Johansson, Director, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at the University of Lund, Sweden, said the imminent doubling or even tripling of energy use required that attention be paid to health and environment consequences, such as air pollution and climate change. There should be a renewed focus on sustainable energy, with realistic targets and timetables. Capacity-building, particularly in developing countries, was perhaps most important. The international community should also find ways to mobilize investments for sustainable energy technologies.

Following the introductions, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the Summit, Jan Pronk, monitored a discussion among 13 panellists, representing United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and major groups.

Panellists stressed the need for renewable energy sources and supported a target of 10 per cent of total energy consisting of renewable energy by 2010. The representative of local government remarked he was tired of hearing that anything but carbon fuel was non-competitive. Local government, which had been cutting its emissions and conserving energy, must be empowered. Local authorities did not want perverse subsidies of fossil fuels. Those subsidies should be offered to companies to develop new technologies.

The youth representative was disappointed with the documents before the Summit, as they contained no targets, timetables or proposed structures in the field of energy. Other panellists stressed the need for conservation and energy efficiency. The representative of trade unions said workers were in a position to identify energy savings and efficiencies in the workplace. The more workers were involved, the more quickly the goals would be achieved.

Member States delegations described their country's experiences and problems, as well as actions they had taken to provide energy to its population, while protecting the environment. Costa Rica's minister announced that it had implemented an indefinite ban on oil exploration. Japan's representative stressed energy efficiency, as 80 to 90 per cent of its energy supplies came from overseas. In the past, pollution had been a result of overuse of energy, he said.

The representative of Slovenia called for removal of barriers, such as unsustainable energy subsidies on fossil fuel and insufficient incentives for changing consumption patters. That could be done through international energy programmes with binding targets and timetables, among other things.

Senegal's representative said that true economic development in Africa would demand the harnessing of its huge hydroelectric capacity. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) had emphasized regional integration. In order to provide the necessary energy supply, $40 billion had to be mobilized. Under current circumstances, the private sector would not be able to provide the necessary capital and it was therefore necessary to turn once again to official development assistance (ODA).

Also participating in the discussion were government ministers and representatives of Nigeria, New Zealand, Brazil, Tuvalu, Zambia, Lesotho, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Saudi Arabia, United States, Ecuador, Namibia, Nepal, Bulgaria, Germany, Uganda, Mexico, India, Algeria, Bhutan, Morocco, Chile, Sweden and Argentina.

Representatives of the major group of business and industry and the non-governmental organizations spoke as well.

In other business, the Summit elected, without a vote, Iran, Iraq, Maldives, Pakistan and Samoa as Vice Presidents.

The Summit will hold a partnership plenary on regional implementations at 10 a.m. Thursday, 29 August, followed by a wrap-up of the partnership plenary sessions.

Introduction of Theme

In his introduction of the theme, STEPHEN KAREKEZI, African Energy Policy Research Network in Kenya, focused on the energy needs of the poor. Some of the difficulties of the least developed countries, of which African countries were a majority, included serious problems of food security, water and health, as well as income issues and employment. Energy could play an important role in alleviating the problems.

He said many of the efforts in the past had been aimed at centralized, high capital cost, conventional energy investments. However, there was a need for energy interventions that increased agricultural productivity of small-scale holders, reduced post-harvest losses and enhanced added value. The energy interventions should increase incomes, generate jobs and create micro-enterprises for the rural and urban poor. Low incomes created an opportunity for realizing great benefits with small investments. Minute amounts of energy could increase the quality of life of households. Some examples of those investment included $5 solar dryers, $40 mechanical water pumps, and a $150 bio-fuel furnace. All those items were environmentally sound and often benefited women.

In many African countries, energy investments above $300 generally excluded the poor and were not of the portable type, he said. The technologies costing between $50 and $300 were often locally made and sustained through commercial or voluntary community activities. He called for the launch of large-scale programmes for dissemination of small-scale, cleaner energy technologies. He, therefore, proposed a possible target of a quarter to a third of the energy budgets to be allocated to low cost, small-scale energy efforts.

Also speaking on the theme, THOMAS B. JOHANSSON, Director, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at the University of Lund, Sweden, said energy concerns were intricately linked to all issues of sustainable development. Indeed, the imminent doubling or even tripling of energy use then required that attention be paid to health and environment issues, air pollution and climate change. Those challenges were not small, but addressing them was necessary to support the sustainable development efforts and the overall Millennium Development Goals.

He said there should be a renewed focus on sustainable energy, with realistic targets and timetables set for action. Capacity-building, worldwide, but particularly in developing countries, was perhaps the most important area to focus on. The international community should also find ways to mobilize investments that resulted in sustainable energy technologies. He added that none of the work before the Summit contained any suggestions for monitoring energy concerns beyond the close of today's meeting.

He cautioned that many of the changes that needed to occur could not be effected in the current policy environment, noting that there were plenty of energy subsidies that were not compatible with sustainable development. Another problem was insufficient support of and investment in technological innovation, particularly renewable energy resources. Integrated policies, which included a combination of conventional and renewable energy technologies, were needed in many areas to enhance poverty-alleviation strategies. Overall, policies must be clear and target poverty-alleviation opportunities.

He ended his presentation with a series of questions for the panel. He asked how to create lasting and sustainable solutions that would address the concerns on both demand and supply side. How could governments focus sufficient attention on end-use efficiency? Did institutional capacity exist or did it have to be created?

The ensuing discussion included a panel made up of United Nations agencies, major groups and other organizations, moderated by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Summit, JAN PRONK.

Panel members included: Emad El-Sharlani, World Energy Council; Irene Freudenschuss-Reichl, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); Kui-nana Mak, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Susan McDade, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Mark Rodica, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Raul Khoza, business group; Mercy Karaijo, farmers group; Tom Goldtooth, indigenous peoples group; Harvey Ruvin, local authorities group; Ms. Wang, non-governmental organizations group; Y. Quéré, scientific and technological group; Shelia Ograacha, women's group; Kristen Casper, youth group; and Ree Green, trade unions group.

When the panellists took up the issue, the representative of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs noted that energy had not even been included in Agenda 21, nor was it included in the Millennium Declaration as one of the Millennium Development Goals. It was the last session of the Commission on Sustainable Development that put energy on its agenda and defined some of the recommendations for moving the issue forward at the Summit.

Energy was very much on the agenda in Rio, said the representative of local authorities. Energy had been addressed in the Climate Change Convention, which came out of Rio. At the local level, he remarked, local government was tired of hearing that anything but carbon was non-competitive. It was necessary to empower local government, which had been cutting its emissions and conserving energy, because that was where the action had been. Local authorities did not want perverse subsidies, which hindered the work of local authorities. Instead, those subsidies should be offered to companies to develop new technologies.

The representative of trade unions added that energy was often not on the agenda because it was a difficult subject and governments did not like to deal with it.

Much of the energy policy implemented worldwide, said the representative of indigenous people, had been detrimental to indigenous people. For example, most of the nuclear waste in the United States was destined for indigenous lands. Energy had been on the agenda 10 years ago and nothing had been done since then. The question was how to take into account the human damage and the damage to the environment when speaking of costs. He was concerned about the inefficient energy policies, which were just meant to dupe the public.

Asked to define the needs of future energy policy, the representative of youth said that youth wanted 100 per cent clean energy. She was disappointed with the documents before the Summit, as they contained no targets, timetables or proposed structures in the field of energy. Therefore, she appealed to delegations to go back to the negotiating table and return with something significant. Youth were also concerned with the fact that communities of colour and women were not included in decision-making. Those groups should be sought out and their views ascertained.

The proposals in the draft outcome document, said the representative of non-governmental organizations, were not adequate. He wanted to see an immediate transition towards sustainable forms of renewable energy and energy conservation. The NGO Energy and Climate Caucus had put together concrete proposals for the paragraph on phasing out subsidies for countries of the North. They proposed that a portion of those phased-out subsidies be contributed to a global fund for sustainable energy.

Mr. JOHANSSON said that a lot could be done on renewables. At the same time, fossil fuels still had a role to play in conjunction with other sources of energy.

Mr. KAREKEZI added that not all traditional technologies should be thrown away, since there were possibilities for improving them.

The representative of business stated that business would be happy to use the challenge of investing in traditional technologies. Asked if business was also interested in sustainable and renewable energy or only in improving on fossil fuel energy, he said that a comprehensive integrated approach should be taken which addressed the full spectrum of challenges.

The representative of farmers also felt that a mix of energy sources was needed. It was not possible to prescribe one type right now. It was necessary to promote renewable sources of energy in agriculture to improve the lives of the poor, especially in rural areas.

The representative of women noted that women were the majority of the poor and suffered great disparities in access to energy. She was not pleased with the lack of reference to gender issues in relation to energy in the draft outcome document.

Responding to a question about the use of science, the representative of that sector said science was not only useful, but unavoidable. There was simply no energy without science. Many of the questions raised could only be solved through science. The youth representative added that patterns of overconsumption should also be taken into consideration and that developed nations should stop their overconsumption.

The women's representative said that the discussion must also focus on poverty alleviation and address the lack of access to energy by women, men and children in rural areas. In some cases, women spent four to nine hours a day in collecting fuels. They also suffered from indoor air pollution. Also, the participation of women in energy policies and decision-making should be addressed. The business representative encouraged such participation, as well as that of youth and organized labour.

In response to a question, the representative of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs said a target of 10 per cent renewable energy by 2010 was feasible, but it depended on the structure of the energy sector. Sustainable development was about changing the way politics worked and energy industries operated. That could be achieved through partnerships. The representative of UNIDO added that indicative goals for energy efficiency would be desirable, as well as institutional capacity-building at the local, national and regional level.

A representative of local authorities said that, with the current climate changes, rising sea levels and "fossilizing of the air", the target must be reached, something that was "of course" feasible. It might take a policy change at the national level and it had to. The consensus was that the United States leadership did not seem to get it, he said, but at the local level numerous authorities were trying to employ alternative fuels.

The representative of the non-governmental organizations called for a focus on conservation -- for reducing energy use in the residential, transportation and industrial sectors by 80 or 90 per cent of the present energy use.

Indigenous peoples had territorial authority over their lands, their representative said, and had taken innovative initiatives for renewable energy. If the rights of indigenous people could be recognized, they could offer a wealth of ideas to offset the production of carbon through generation of clean, renewable energy. In that way, the United States could even meet the Kyoto commitments.

Trade unions had already contacted employees to work on energy-conservation issues, their representative added. Workers were in a position to identify savings and efficiencies, and unions were the coordination. Poverty was not only a rural issue, but also urban. Major savings could be made in urban energy-generating plants. The more workers were involved, the more quickly the goals would be achieved.

Asked whether energy conservation was really necessary, the representative of UNEP said that energy conservation and efficiency should be seen as a primary enabling measure for some of the other changes that had been discussed.

On the same issue, the scientific representative said perhaps it was more an issue of feasibility. It was a fact that energy-conservation innovations and technological advances occurred in the classroom. He was, therefore, concerned that fewer and fewer children were interested in physics, biology, mathematics and technological fields.

The representative of women said, if women had a real say in energy policy, the discussion would be totally different. There were more relevant issues that needed to be addressed in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals, such as looking at the links between health and energy.

The representative of non-governmental organizations said that employing sustainable design and reusable building materials were major conservation ideas that could make energy use more efficient. She stressed that there was a difference between efficiency and conservation. Conservation meant really reducing energy use up front, not making something more energy efficient after use had begun.

The representative of UNDP said development happened at the national and local levels, not in rooms like this one. Still, the key thing would be that the people left the conference and passed on to their local governments the discussions that had taken place. She added that UNDP was heading up energy programmes in nearly 30 per cent of the 176 countries in which it worked. Further, the agency was convinced that energy issues should not be addressed only within the energy sector. Comprehensive action required cross-ministerial dialogue at the government level, accompanied with the active participation of non-governmental organizations and local community actors.

The representative of UNIDO said the international community should not forget the economic benefits of conservation at the enterprise or national levels. The national level benefits would be particularly noticeable in small countries and island developing nations, where large amounts of fuel had to be imported. It was important to look at way markets could be restructured, in order to provide a framework in which sustainable options had a chance to take hold and effect change.

When delegations took the floor, the Minister in charge of petroleum in the Office of the President of Nigeria said it must be acknowledged that access to modern forms of energy was out of the reach of most in the developing world. Economic development could not be achieved in the developing world without affordable sources of energy. It was presumptuous for the Summit to tell any Government to establish numerical targets or timetables on energy. He urged the international community to focus its efforts on helping developing countries to enhance their capacity for affordable sources of renewable energy.

New Zealand's Minister of Environment was pleased that energy featured so prominently on the Summit's agenda. Her country had a considerable amount of renewable energy. The entire world should be working for renewables. However, the world would not get renewable energy until subsidies on other energy sources were removed. She fully supported the removal of those subsidies.

While biomass was an important source of energy in developing countries, the way it was used in those countries was not sustainable, stressed the representative of Brazil. Developing countries should work to convert traditional forms of biomass to modern forms of biomass.

Setting targets and timetables for renewable energy was important to Tuvalu, its representative stated. At the second meeting of the Summit's preparatory committee, his delegation had proposed a legally binding arrangement on energy. That proposal had been rejected by negotiators, particularly by the same countries that were refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. He called on all nations to take a serious step forward at the Summit to commit to renewable energy targets and to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Zambia's Tourism Minister said that use of low forms of energy, such as wood, charcoal and dung, led to indoor air pollution affecting the health of the population. While woodlands and forests covered 68 per cent of the total land area in Zambia and hydropower contributed to 14 per cent of total energy use, less than 20 per cent of the population had access to electrical power.

The Minister of Costa Rica, describing his country's policies, said 90 per cent of electricity there came from renewable sources. As a country that supported the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, his country this year implemented an indefinite ban on oil exploration.

Lesotho's Minister said her country aimed at developing hydropower, as water was the only mega-resource there. Cost was the major constraint to providing electricity to all households. She, therefore, called on development partners to assist developing countries in the provision of energy.

The Minister from Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the highlighting of energy as a priority area. Achieving reliable and affordable energy services to 2 billion people would require the sustained efforts of government and all stakeholders, he said. Energy was a key component for any poverty-eradication and sustainable development strategy. The Union was launching an initiative to provide access to energy to achieve the Millennium Goals, and would spend 700 million euros in 2003 to that end.

Japan's representative stressed energy efficiency, as 80 to 90 per cent of its energy supplies came from overseas. In the past, pollution had been a result of overuse of energy, he said. Japan had now achieved the best energy efficiency in the world in terms of energy consumption in relation to gross domestic product (GDP). His country promoted an energy literacy initiative and would engage itself in energy education.

The representative of Slovenia called for removal of barriers such as unsustainable energy subsidies on fossil fuel and insufficient incentives for changing consumption patters. That could be done through international energy programmes with binding targets and timetables, among other things. He supported capacity-building and multi-stakeholder partnerships, as well as establishment of a United Nations institution for coordination of efforts in that regard.

The business and industry group recognized the significant role of improved energy efficiency and supported the view that access to energy was necessary for poverty alleviation, that group's representative said. Business stressed the need for enhanced research and expanding partnerships for effective strategies. It appreciated the value of participatory discussion and supported a follow-up process. Business wanted to be an integral part of the solution.

Senegal's representative said that true economic development in Africa would demand the harnessing of its huge hydroelectric capacity. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) had emphasized regional integration. In order to provide the necessary energy supply, $40 billion had to be mobilized. Under current circumstances, the private sector would not be able to provide the necessary capital and it was, therefore, necessary to turn once again to official development assistance (ODA).

Uganda's representative considered energy to be the engine of growth for a modern economy. Developed countries derived 70 per cent of their power from hydropower. On the other hand, Africa had only been able to tap 4.3 per cent of its hydropower potential. Reducing the dependency on traditional energy sources would save women the drudgery of looking for firewood, among other things. The Summit would attain its goal if ways and means to acquire clean energy were achieved.

Mexico's representative said that the panel had made it clear that energy was a cross-sectoral issue. As such, energy should be solved by a joint effort by developed and developing countries. Mexico had already ratified the Kyoto Protocol and believed in a global framework to advance the issue. It was also shifting its policy towards a greater use of cleaner fuels. Its electrical sector produced more energy with lesser emissions. A key element to reducing the impact of energy on development was the use of renewable energy.

The representative of the 29th August Fund, Kazakhstan, (a non-governmental organization) said that he represented a region that had a great potential in hydroelectric power and alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar power. The consequences of nuclear tests in the Semipalatinsk region could be seen today. He emphasized that not a single State in the world had voluntarily closed its own nuclear testing ground. Kazakhstan was the only country to have done so. Tomorrow marked the eleventh anniversary since Kazakhstan's President closed the Semipalatinsk testing area.

Universal access to affordable energy, stated India's representative, was a primary tool for poverty alleviation. In most developing countries, traditional biomass was used for energy. Those countries could not do away with those methods overnight. The use of renewable energy required further work. Energy had so far been considered a stand-alone sector, but it involved a cross-cutting and integrated approach.

Energy, Algeria's representative said, had a direct impact on sustainable development. His Government's energy policy mainly aimed to do the following: maximum use of natural gas and liquid propane as well as exporting that energy source; electrical production using gas; generalizing use of gas by people in remote areas; promoting use of clean fuels; and developing new and cleaner sources of energy.

The representative of Bhutan said that his country had a huge potential to develop hydropower, but the cost of ensuring that that power reached rural communities was extremely prohibitive. Still, every effort was being extended to ensure that rural and mountain communities could move away from Bhutan's
traditional energy source -- wood-burning stoves -- toward sustainable energy sources.

Morocco had established priorities to implement strategic programmes to increase its renewable energy, that country's representative said. He proposed that sometime after the Summit, a meeting be held in his country to discuss creating partnerships to address specific energy issues.

The representative of Chile supported the use of renewable energy and hydroelectric energy sources as long as they adhered to environmental safeguards. The efforts of many small countries to promote the use of renewable energy often collapsed, as resources for such initiatives were diverted to subsidize other, non-sustainable energy sources, primarily nuclear energy. He emphasized that the very unsustainable nature, namely the radioactive waste it produced, should exempt it from subsidy schemes.

The representative of Sweden said that the question of energy addressed the effects of policy, while also addressing wasteful consumption and inefficient resource use. It was important for the international community to create policies aimed at decreasing wood-burning, lessening the burden of fuel wood collection for women, and confronting the dramatic effects of climate change. It was also necessary to set the global renewable energy target of at least 15 per cent of global primary energy supply by 2010. Such a target would demonstrate the will of the industrialized world to secure technology transfer for developed countries and to promote research in new renewable technologies.

Economic development and environmental protection were diametrically opposed, stated Argentina's representative. Today, while they were generally seen as two sides of the same coin, the international community appeared to be backtracking. It had been 10 years since Rio and the two conventions -- on Climate Change, and on Biodiversity -- had not yet been fully implemented and the Kyoto Protocol had not reached a level of sufficient agreement. There would be no sustainable development without firm action in the field of energy. Action must be focused on promoting the use of clean, renewable energy resources.

Summing up the discussion, Mr. PRONK said that many proposals had emerged and many States had shared their national policies with regard to energy conservation, energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy and energy for the poor. There had also been clear endorsements for setting specific targets for renewable energy.

He said it was clear that countries were willing to cooperate in all those fields related to energy and that they had accepted the necessity that civil society had a major role to play in national efforts to define energy policies and effect their implementation. He added that most speakers had highlighted the necessity of doing away with subsidies, and unsustainable energy practices. Speakers were also in favour of the quick entry in force of the Kyoto Protocol, if only to do away with the disastrous effects of climate change.



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