|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on ‘Energy and Climate Change Solutions to Be Showcased
at the Global South-South Development Expo’
Solutions to bridge the massive gap in access to sustainable energy between the global North and South – particularly solutions emanating from the South – would be showcased at an innovative international expo in November, experts involved in organizing the event said at a Headquarters press conference today.
“Without access to reliable, affordable energy, you cannot […] reduce poverty,” said Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), co-organizer of the 2012 Global South-South Development Expo alongside the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The event will be held in Vienna from 19-23 November. Indeed, there was a strong correlation between the lack of access to energy and the incidence of poverty, he said. The Expo, the fifth of an annual series, would therefore focus on innovative solutions from the Global South.
Mr. Yumkella said sustainable solutions were needed for the estimated 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion people around the world without access to electricity, most of whom were women living in the Global South. As a result of that lack of access, almost 2 million people – mostly women and children – died each year from biomass air pollution caused by indoor cooking and related activities. More women were severely burned each year than were diagnosed with HIV, and some 200,000 to 400,000 health-care facilities in the developing world lacked access to reliable energy sources, he added.
“Energy itself is not what is crucial […] it is what it allows communities to do,” he stressed, pointing out that both the safety and the productiveness of communities improved when they were connected to an energy source. About 80 per cent of Africa’s food processing was done by women, he said, adding: “Just think what access to energy can do for them.” In that vein, he said “off-grid” solutions, such as pumping water and using local renewable energy sources, already existed in countries such as India and Brazil. And while many countries in the Global North were investing in such South-based solutions, more capital was urgently needed, as it would cost an estimated $48 billion a year to achieve universal energy access in the next decade.
He went on to say that the Expo’s theme reflected the international community’s commitment to addressing the world’s energy needs in a sustainable way, noting that the leaders of a number of United Nations agencies had listed energy among their top priorities. For his part, the Secretary-General had launched the “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative with three main objectives, to be achieved by the year 2030: to achieve universal access to energy; to double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and to double the share of renewable energy used around the world.
Accompanying Mr. Yumkella were John W. Ashe, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and President of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation, and Yiping Zhou, Director of the UNDP Special Unit for South-South Cooperation.
Mr. Asheexpressed satisfaction that the energy theme had been chosen for the 2012 Expo, which would provide an occasion for countries of the Global South to demonstrate the solutions they had created to deal with their daily energy needs.
Mr. Zhou stressed the necessity of ensuring that those countries contributed to each others’ development agendas, as well as the importance of triangular cooperation. As for the Expo, he said the main goal of the newly formed United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation would be to facilitate the participation of the more than 600 expected attendees, who would represent more than 20 United Nations agencies, over 30 Member States, and a large number of private sector businesses. The event was unique in that it was funded collectively by all its participants, all of whom “bring themselves to the table”, he said. “We expect them to bring solutions,” he added. “We need solutions, and solutions are in the South.”
Asked why there had been no “massive investment” in solar energy in the Global South, a part of the world that was replete with sunshine, Mr. Yumkella said solar energy was often more expensive than other renewable alternatives, and while the price of solar power was dropping, that was not happening fast enough. Secondly, it was difficult for some poor countries to access the “novel technology” needed to harness solar energy. Public policy was still another barrier, he continued, citing the nearly $312 billion in global subsidies for various other energy sources. Countries also needed a stable public sector in order to implement energy policy, particularly in the solar sphere.
When asked for more information about the transfer of technology to the Global South, he said such transfers were mostly bundled together with investments. Indeed, he said, he had not seen a “massive technology transfer by charity”. Since universal access to energy would be a very expensive endeavour, leaders must make private investment in technology transfer more attractive, he said.
Mr. Asheadded that from the perspective of a small island developing State it might not make financial sense to move towards certain renewable energy sources. For instance, while Antigua and Barbuda enjoyed much sunshine, its 80,000 residents already had access to an existing energy grid, and the incentive to move towards something more expensive was “not there”. On technology transfer, he said most requests came at the Government level while technology in Northern countries resided mostly in the private sector, he pointed out. “It’s not going to be charitable.”
Asked about the “transfer of techniques”, or energy methodologies and policies, Mr. Yumkella said UNIDO had created a knowledge hub in Colorado, to which States could reach out if they had questions about issues such as tariffs. In addition, the World Bank would soon be hosting another hub that would focus on public policy. The idea behind those open-source hubs was “to do for energy what others did for mobile phones” — to spread access cheaply and widely.
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