Remaining Energy Issues Prove Difficult to Resolve
Johannesburg, 30 August Agreement has already been reached on a range of
energy issues, including provisions calling for the promotion of energy
efficient technologies, the elimination of lead from gasoline, the reduction of
the practice of flaring and venting of gas during crude oil production, and
creating a level playing field so clean energy sources can compete.
But several basic issues are still in dispute, including proposals for a target
for renewable energies, shifting subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuels toward
renewables, and whether countries should launch "energy programmes."
Energy is one of the central issues of the Summit, and it has wide
ramifications for fighting poverty and protecting the environment. Nearly two
million people live in a pre-industrial energy age, relying firewood and
biomass for fuel, and the indoor air pollution caused by burning these fuel is
responsible for causing respiratory and other health problems. Women in these
communities are particularly affected, as they are most often responsible for
collecting the firewood and fuel, and are most affected from the smoke from
The richest people in the world, however, use about 25 times as energy per
person as the poorest people. Fossil fuels, which serve as the main source of
energy in developed countries, are blamed for contributing to air pollution and
are the major factor in the release of greenhouse gas emissions, which are
blamed for climate change.
Gustavo Ainchil, Councellor for the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the
United Nations, who has facilitated the negotiations on the energy sections of
the outcome document of the Summit, said most of the energy text was agreed
upon at the Bali PrepCom, and was based on the agreements reached at last
year's meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.
Some countries want to implement what was already agreed, he said, but others
wanted to go further.
Still to be agreed, Ainchil said, was a provision on how partnerships would be
considered and reviewed by the international community, adding that consensus
on that issue would come only at the very end of the Summit.
But other differences, he said, reflected different conceptions on how
countries wished to proceed. For example, some countries want the Summit to
require countries to launch "programmes of action" that would require
a degree of decentralization, while other want a more decentralized approach.
A target for promoting renewable energy has also proved elusive. The European
Union has proposed that countries attain the goal of using renewable energy for
15 per cent of their energy needs. But the United States maintains that since
the cost of renewable energy is still more expensive than conventional energy
sources, it is not always appropriate. Developing countries also maintain that
they do not want their development options constrained.
Ainchil said the issue that was not a NorthSouth issue, but cut across
various regions and negotiating groups. "It is one of the very difficult
issues, and there are different approaches within the same regions and
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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006