Press Conference on General Assembly Dialogue on Renewable Sources of Energy

18 June 2009

Press Conference on General Assembly Dialogue on Renewable Sources of Energy

18 June 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Energy was central to all aspects of development, the Ambassador of Belarus said today, urging United Nations Member States to bridge the current “energy divide” by, among other things, creating a global mechanism to ensure that all countries, especially developing nations and transition economies, gained fair and adequate access to technologies for new and renewable sources of energy.

Briefing the press at Headquarters during the mid-day break of the General Assembly’s interactive thematic dialogue on “Energy efficiency, energy conservation and new and renewable sources of energy” (see Press Release GA/10838), Andrei Dapkiunas said that addressing the existing global energy divide required a giant leap forward that included sound initiatives for structural adjustments, as well as a breakthrough in the perception of the limits of what could be achieved.  Further, he added: “We must be willing to rally the amount of empathy [and] understanding to address this truly global issue.”

“We believe […] that broad proliferation of advanced sustainable energy technologies for development is possible,” he said, adding that Belarus, which had been instrumental, along with a number of other Assembly delegations, in seeing that the thematic dialogue was held, also believed that more robust North-South cooperation on energy was possible, dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and conservation could be achieved, and that sustained intergovernmental dialogue on energy conservation was possible.

He called on the participants in the thematic dialogue to engage in shaping the pragmatic vision of a breakthrough on sustainable energy and, along the way, shape the beginnings of a United Nations energy agenda.  He stressed that, when the United Nations and its agencies discussed climate change, poverty reduction, food security, or other priorities on the global development agenda, energy issues must not be sidelined.  “Energy […] links all those subjects and can perhaps provide solutions,” he said.

Mr. Dapkiunas said his Government hoped that advice and recommendations that emerged from the dialogue could lead to the consideration of the establishment of a global mechanism that would ensure that all countries, especially developing countries and transition economies, would get fair and adequate access to technologies for new and renewable sources of energy.  The beginnings of such a mechanism were in place, he said, noting the abundance of national- and regional-level good practices.  However, there no clear scheme on how to make advanced technologies for new and renewable sources of energy readily available at the global level.

Belarus was not proposing a new bureaucratic structure, but rather a set of practical measures that could improve and strengthen the existing international institutional and legal environment, he said.  That effort could include creating a database of the relevant technologies and could also build on the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Expert Group on the Transfer of Technologies.  He also proposed the creation of a global fund to finance transfer of energy technologies, and added that Member States might also want to consider the establishment of a United Nations-backed centre focused on the transfer of advanced energy technologies.

Responding to questions, he said Member States should not shy away from innovative thinking because some ideas or solutions seemed like they might “not be UN enough”.  Indeed, taking a bolder approach to energy matters might be a way to open up the discussion and ultimately lead to some feasible, practical solutions.  “But right now, we believe we need to use every means to get us together […] not just to get us in the same room but to get us on the same wavelength, developed and developing countries alike.”

He said the thematic dialogue had its roots in the comments made by the Minster for Foreign Affairs of Belarus during last years general debate, who had suggested that the 192-member body should get involved in the growing international discourse on energy, not because it was becoming fashionable, but because energy matters were at the heart of so many issues the United Nations was attempting to tackle.

He said that, when Belarus had decided to initiate the dialogue, it had considered the comparative advantages of having it convened by the world’s most representative body, even as discussions about energy efficiency and renewable energy were taking place in other forums.  “We didn’t need another talk shop [and] wanted to consider how the Governments of the world thought about ways intergovernmental engagement could be adjusted to facilitate development, transfer and application of advanced and breakthrough technologies in the sphere of [sustainable] energy.”

As for the outcome of the current Assembly dialogue, he said that, while the President would prepare his traditional summary of the talks, Belarus hoped that the co-organizers of the event would contemplate ways to keep up the momentum generated today.  In practical terms, Belarus hoped to draw on the discussion, as it drafted a resolution on new and renewable energy that it planned to introduce in the Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial) in the fall.  Looking ahead, Belarus hoped that, one day, the Assembly would proclaim advanced energy technologies the common property of mankind.

While that might seem like a naïve notion, he said, with all the challenges facing the international community, market-based, profit-and-loss considerations and concerns over intellectual property rights should not stand in the way of crafting a broad, globally agreed mechanism to provide energy technology for development.

Joining Mr. Dapkiunas was Tariq Banuri, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, who said that, while energy was central to human prosperity and sustainable development, the disparity in access to energy, between the United States and Bangladesh, or India and China, for instance -- especially access to technologies used to promote clean energy -- was eye opening.

That disparity in kilowatt hours of energy used trickled down to all levels of human development; where energy use and access to energy was low, studies had shown that child mortality rates rose and life expectancy decreased.  No country had reached adequate levels of human development without 100 per cent access to electricity, he said, adding soberly that 2.5 billion people worldwide had no access to any electricity at all.  “So you see why we have such a strong agenda to increase the access to energy of countries and populations that do not have enough.”

While getting energy to those without it was crucial, Mr. Banuri said the United Nations believed it was also important to take innovative steps to curb energy waste, as well as to begin adopting renewable energy solutions that would address the effects of climate change.  One key obstacle there was that, currently, non-renewable energy was cheap, while clean energy sources and technologies were expensive.

So the priority was to ensure that renewable energy was affordable now and in the future, especially so that more people in poor countries could afford it.  It was also critical for affluent countries to wean their populations from wasting energy and from using fossil fuels.  “We need polices that can bring both sides together,” he said.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.