May 2nd, 2006 08:20 EST
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES CAN NO LONGER BE POSTPONED
Recent history had turned on its head the idea that environmental issues could somehow be postponed until later in the development process, as everyone now saw that environmental issues could become major economic and social problems relatively early in the process, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Jose Antonio Ocampo, said as the Commission on Sustainable Development opened its fourteenth session at Headquarters today.
Mr. Ocampo opened the two-week session, the first of a two-year review of energy for sustainable development, industrial development, pollution and climate change, due to culminate in the adoption of a set of policy options and practical measures next year (for details of the session, see Press Release ENV/DEV/887). As a citizen of a developing country, he said he welcomed the 53-member body’s attention to the issue of industrialization because it was in relation to that process that he saw most vividly the interlinkages among all the issues that would be addressed during the two-year cycle.
Industrialization could not make an enduring contribution to development when it worsened climate change and air pollution, he said. But, measures to guard against air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, such as those aimed at boosting energy efficiency, were actually good for industrialization. Cleaner production methods were being adopted more widely, and they were bringing significant economic efficiency gains, as well as environmental improvements, he said. Moreover, success in stimulating industrial development while mitigating its negative side effects offered valuable lessons for those coming late to the industrialization process. That was not only good for the environment; it was also good for the competitiveness of those industries in developing countries.
Following a presentation of outcomes from related inter-sessional meetings across the globe over the past two years, a general discussion ensued in which there was widespread agreement among the nearly 40 speakers that the subjects to be deliberated at the current session were unparalleled for achieving the sustainable development objectives. Energy use and industrial development were vital for economic growth, but care must be taken to minimize air pollution, climate change and other adverse environmental effects. The major goal was to improve access to reliable and affordable energy sources. It was felt that the social dimensions of access to modern energy sources could not be overstated.
Canada’s speaker said he was well aware of the major challenge posed by the need for new energy infrastructure, as well as access to affordable energy, so necessary for eradicating “energy-poverty” around the world. Through its development assistance programme, Canada focused on supporting policies aimed at building legal and regulatory frameworks attractive to both domestic private sector investment and foreign direct investment. The developing world had a unique opportunity to employ innovative and transformative technologies to build a cleaner and more environmentally sustainable energy infrastructure from the existing base. Having the right mix of policies was integral to allowing the world to meet its environmental and social objectives, while harnessing the benefit of markets for economic development.
As world oil prices soared, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania worried, the oil alternative was becoming increasingly untenable. Indeed, the vicious chain of challenges was illustrated by the current energy crisis in his country caused by drought and rising oil prices. Like most eastern African countries, Tanzania had been hit by unusual drought, which was adversely affecting the generation of hydropower -- the major source of the country’s energy supply. Coal was plentiful, but remained unexploited for lack of investment, and when that became possible, clean coal technology would come at a price. Alternative renewable sources were potentially promising and just beginning to be integrated into national energy strategies, but that would require substantial capital investment and technology transfers.
Summing up today’s general discussion, Vice-Chairman Adrian Fernandez ( Mexico) noted that statements today had touched on the advantages, opportunities and synergies that might be derived from the consideration of the four topics, and dealing with them as a set of interrelated issues. There were also a number of countries that had insisted on the need to ensure that there was greatest possible balance among the four topics. The Commission also heard about the importance of environmentally-friendly technologies. Delegations also raised the issue of sustainable transportation, which would help reduce greenhouse gases and impact the health of populations in urban centres. It was felt that more sustainable production and consumption patterns would continue to inform the 2006 debate.
Presenting the outcomes this morning of several inter-sessional meetings between 2004 and 2006 were the representatives of China, Costa Rica, Canada, Qatar, Germany, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, India, and South Africa, as well as representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Bank.
This afternoon, the Commission held a two-part panel discussion on the theme: “Improving access to reliable, affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound energy services”. In the first, on “improving access in urban and rural areas from the perspective of end-use applications”, many speakers focused on the need to reinvigorate international focus on the fuel/energy targets of the Millennium Development Goals, saying that without access to electricity, mechanical power and clean fuels, many countries would be unable to achieve those goals. The second focused on gender and access to energy services, with experts and delegations alike saying that women, primary energy uses and gatherers in many developing countries should be viewed as “energy managers” and calling on governments to boost women’s participation in energy policy decision-making.
In other business, the Commission adopted its agenda and organization of work for the session. Azanaw Abreha ( Ethiopia) served as Acting Chairman, reading out a statement from the Chairman of the Commission, Aleksi Aleksishvili ( Georgia). Vice-Chairman Fernandez ( Mexico) made closing remarks. Guyana’s representative on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) delivered a statement about the programme of work, and Cuba’s representative delivered an intervention about the documentation issued by the Secretariat.
Statements in the general discussion were also made by the representatives of South Africa on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Austria on behalf of the European Union, Saint Lucia on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Zambia on behalf of the African Group, Guyana on behalf of the Rio Group, Russian Federation, China, Indonesia, Iceland, Jamaica, Algeria, Costa Rica, Turkey, India, Australia, Japan, Kuwait, Israel, Switzerland, South Africa, Serbia and Montenegro, United States, Pakistan, Italy, Mexico, Palau, Solomon Islands, Brazil, and Tuvalu.
AZANAW ABREHA ( Ethiopia),Acting Chairman, reading out a statement from the Chairman of the Commission, Aleksi Aleksishvili ( Georgia), said the Commission had completed one full cycle last year. This year, the first in the second cycle, provided to build on the success of the previous two years. The review process began with regional implementation meetings in Africa, Western Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America. A number of Governments had worked together on the issues within the thematic cluster. The Commission at its current session would review, assess and take stock of progress in implementing the goals set in Agenda 21, the programme for the further implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
The subjects to be deliberated on were unparalleled for achieving sustainable development goals, he continued. Energy use and industrial development were vital for economic growth, but care must be taken to minimize air pollution, climate change and other environmental effects. The major goal was improving access to reliable and affordable sources of energy. Investment and transfer of technology could play a major role in improving development prospects. An investment of about $550 billion per annum in the coming years would be required to satisfy energy needs.
The social dimensions of access to modern energy sources could not be overstated, he said. Discussions on industrial development would cover areas such as lessons learned, energy efficiency successes and corporate responsibility. The review of air pollution, atmosphere and climate change must be thorough without duplicating efforts under way in other intergovernmental forums. Socio-economic development was accompanied by greater energy use and the increased use of vehicles, among other things. Reducing air pollution could be facilitated by the use of renewable energy sources. The issues in the thematic cluster were closely related and interlinked. Discussion of one could not take place in a meaningful way without consideration of at least one of the other issues.
Regarding the Commission’s programme of work for the session, DONNETTE CRITCHLOW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recalled that the eleventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development adopted a resolution which decided that implementation of the multi-year programme of work would take into account all issues in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan, and that the implementation process should cover all those issues equally. The current programme could compromise that resolution, which was the basis for the Commission’s work in future years. All the themes and commitments contained in the Johannesburg Plan were important in the achievement of sustainable development.
Owing to differences in interests and priorities, she said that countries and regions would have preferences regarding the treatment of the different themes. It was important that the work programme reflected the diversity of Member States, by according a balanced treatment of the themes comprising the session. An unbalanced approach jeopardized the mandate of the eleventh session of the Commission. She appreciated the efforts to take account of the concerns of her two groups, but regretted that equal time could not be allotted for a balanced treatment of the themes for the current session. That should not serve as a precedent for future sessions. Priority should be given to discussing each of the themes comprehensively from the perspective of the three pillars of sustainable development
YOBANY GOMEZ GONZALEZ ( Cuba) expressed his concerns with regard to presentation of documentation for the bureau, as well as the proposed organization of work for the session. On the first, he said the fact that the second cycle had only one consolidated report on the four items to be tackled instead of separate reports for each item, as done in the last cycle, was a lack of compliance by the Secretariat with the mandate given to it. The explanations given on that matter were not satisfactory to him.
The same applied to the proposed organization of work, he continued. Despite that many delegations had drawn attention to the organization of work, and that an alternative solution was proposed with regard to the thematic clusters, some had insisted on the original proposal of the Chairman, which was unbalanced, as it stressed only one of the issues to be dealt with. That had led to an unbalanced treatment of the four items to be discussed. That represented an unjustified change to the manner in which the Commission had tackled issues in the previous cycle. He hoped discussions would be carried out in a balanced fashion so each theme could be tackled thoroughly, and the current practice would not set a precedent for the future. On that basis, he had joined the consensus on the proposed organization of work.
JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that, beyond meeting some of people’s basic needs, energy was required by societies in their pursuit of industrial development and improved living standards. Industry and energy use, however, also contributed to air and atmospheric pollution. Indeed, the combustion of fossil fuels for energy and industry was the single largest global contributor to greenhouse gas emissions -- and, hence, to climate change. Yet, if development was to prove sustainable, those negative impacts must be reduced. Ways were being found to do so, from improved energy efficiency to pollution control technologies and cleaner production methods.
He said there had been several achievements since the 2002 World Summit at Johannesburg, marked by global progress, however uneven, in increasing electrification rates and reduced biomass fuel dependence, as well as elimination of lead gasoline by sub-Saharan countries. Cooperation to eliminate substances that depleted the ozone layer had also increased, the Kyoto Protocol had entered into force, the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism had been implemented, and there had been an increased use of renewable energy. In addition, there had been a resurgent interest in funding energy access projects, especially in the electricity sector. Still, much work remained.
As many as 2.4 billion people -- or about half of all households and 90 per cent of all rural households -- today lacked access to modern energy services for cooking and heating, he said. They relied instead on traditional, non-commercial energy sources, thereby contributing to indoor air pollution and poor health. For all those people, a transition must be facilitated from traditional, non-commercial energy sources to modern, commercially traded sources. Moreover, despite progress in extending national electricity grids and installing decentralized systems, 1.6 billion people still lacked access to electricity. That was a special concern for sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the world’s lowest access rates.
He said that renewable energy technologies could offer “win-win” solutions for making energy services available with minimal air pollution and climate change emissions. But, the costs were still relatively high. The per kilowatt-hour cost of wind, geothermal, biomass and mini-hydro energy, which averaged 4 to 12 cents, generally exceeded that of conventional electricity, which averaged only 2 to 5 cents. Clearly, lowering those costs should be a priority. At the same time, legitimate concerns about energy security, exacerbated by high energy prices, temporary or perceived disruptions in energy supply and uncertainties about the future must be addressed. More efficient use of limited energy resources could be achieved partly through increased trade in energy, but that depended on well developed sophisticated energy infrastructure requiring significant new investments and strengthened cooperation and collaborative action.
The 2005 World Summit had recognized meeting energy needs, promoting clean energy and tackling climate change as interconnected challenges that must be approached in the wider context of sustainable development, with its economic, social and environmental dimensions, he said. Crucially, that set the stage for the integration of climate change issues into national development strategies, as well as for their mainstreaming into international development cooperation. In facing the core issues of emissions limitation and adaptation to climate change, some countries had focused mainly on the potential of scientific advances and technological innovations, such as affordable low-emission energy options and techniques for capturing greenhouse gases. But, given strong evidence of threats posed by climate change, and in light of the precautionary principle, the international community should consider a mix of the technological approach with other measures and options.
He said that experience with the Kyoto Protocol, along with other initiatives in several countries, suggested the effectiveness of giving markets clear incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Development Mechanism offered an opportunity to contribute to the emissions reduction process and to increase resource flows that could make a difference to developing countries’ energy and transport infrastructure, as well as their technology choices. Facilitating “bankable” Clean Development Mechanism projects in many more developing countries, including sub-Saharan Africa, would thus represent a significant achievement. Creating incentives to increase energy production efficiency, transmission and consumption could be another powerful tool. As the impact of climate change on socio-economic systems were increasingly apparent, adaptation remained essential for both developed and developing countries. That issue was particularly important for small island developing States and least developed countries.
As a citizen of a developing country, he said he welcomed the Commission’s attention to the issue of industrialization. It was in relation to that process that he saw most vividly the interlinkages among all the issues that would be addressed by the Commission’s two-year cycle. Today, everyone understood much better the importance of developing modern services and how globalization had opened up new opportunities for service economies. Nonetheless, the strong association between economic development and industrialization, underscored by classical development economics, had stood very well the test of time.
Although many developing countries had enjoyed episodes of growth over the past several decades, only a relatively small number had sustained high growth rates over extended periods, he said. In each success story, industrial development had been rapid, and poverty rates had tended to decline -- often steeply. Yet those same countries, and even some where industrialization had not been so rapid, had often experienced significant pressures on the environment from air emissions, waste water discharges and hazardous industrial waste.
He said that history turned on its head the idea that environmental issues could somehow be postponed until later in the development process. As interdependent and mutually supportive pillars, economic growth, social development and environmental protection must be considered together in an integrated way. Through that lens, everyone now saw that environmental issues could become major economic and social problems relatively early in the development process. Industrialization could not make an enduring contribution to development when it accelerated climate change and air pollution. And, measures to guard against air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, such as those aimed at boosting energy efficiency, were actually good for industrialization.
Cleaner production methods were being adopted more widely, and they were bringing significant economic efficiency gains, as well as environmental improvements, he said. Moreover, success in stimulating industrial development while mitigating its negative side effects offered valuable lessons for those coming late to the industrialization process. That was not only good for the environment; it was also good for the competitiveness of those industries in developing countries. Ways to encourage a more rapid global diffusion and transfer of more energy- and material-efficient technologies should be identified, thereby enabling industries in developing countries to converge rapidly towards international best practice in any given sector. Cleaner energy options across a range of uses should also be explored.
Outcomes during Inter-sessional Period
ZHANG YISHAN (China), presenting the outcome of the Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference 2005, held in Beijing, China, from 7 to 8 November, 2005, said the ministers and government representatives from 78 countries had emphasized the multiple benefits of increased energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources for improving access to energy services, thereby contributing to poverty eradication, increasing job opportunities, improving air quality and public health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, combating climate change, enhancing energy security, and offering a new paradigm for international cooperation. Participants had noted with concern that more than 2 billion people in developing countries did not have access to modern energy services and that 2.4 billion relied on traditional biomass for their basic energy needs.
He said the view had been expressed that countries could create diversified energy portfolios, which were less vulnerable to wide price fluctuations. Participants had agreed to take further action at the national, regional and international levels to accelerate the market uptake of renewable energy technologies and increase investment in research and development, especially by developed countries. That would enhance efficiency and reduce up-front costs. They had also agreed on the need for strengthened support for the commercialization and transfer of technologies through North-South and South-South cooperation. Governments also recognized the need for significant financial resources, both public and private, for investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and further stressed the need for enhanced global cooperation for capacity-building in developing countries. They also recognized the need for making technical assistance for renewable energy widely accessible to developing countries, especially the least developed countries.
Presenting the outcome of the Symposium on Hydropower and Sustainable Development, held in Beijing, China, from 27 to 29 October, 2004, Mr. Zhang said the participants, which had included representatives of Governments, utilities, the private sector, multilateral financial institutions, the scientific community and civil society, had stressed that hydropower could contribute to sustainable development, to providing access to energy, especially for the poor, and to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. In some developing countries, hydropower had contributed to poverty reduction and economic growth through regional development and industry expansion. However, two thirds of economically viable hydropower potential was yet to be tapped. While participants were convinced of the need to develop sustainable hydropower, they emphasized that such development should be sustainable from the social, economic and environmental standpoints. They called on Governments to put in place procedures that stressed the need to plan hydropower developments in a way that gave equal weight to environmental and social factors, as well as to economic and financial ones.
ELLEN VON ZITZEWITZ (Germany), presenting the outcome of the International Conference for Renewable Energies, held in Bonn from 1 to 4 June 2004, said 154 countries were present at the Conference, which included some 3,600 participants. The Conference delivered three main outcomes: a political declaration signed by all participants; policy recommendations for renewable energies; and an international action plan containing 200 actions and commitments to promote renewable energies. That action plan could lead to a reduction of 5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, as well as a boost in investment of €326 billion. One of the main follow-ups to the Conference was the creation of a renewable energy network.
TON BOON VON OCHSEE (Netherlands), presenting the outcome of the Energy for Development Conference, held in Noordwijk from 12 to 14 November 2004, said that the objective of the Conference was to accelerate the implementation of the energy-related commitments in the Johannesburg Plan. The Chair’s conclusions from the Conference had been made available to the Chairman and members of the Commission. Sharing a few observations from the Conference, he said the world was facing a serious energy crisis, and the imminent threat of climate change. To fuel the world economy, energy supply would increase by 60 per cent by 2030. Energy was essential for economic growth and vital for improving the well-being of the poor.
It was clear that securing energy investment and widening energy access for the poor were interdependent, he said. Business as usual was an unsound approach and policy changes were urgently required. Increased investment for the energy sector was necessary, and climate change should be taken into account when setting energy policies. Energy needs must be integrated into government policies, including poverty-reduction strategies. Also, it was necessary to fully engage all stakeholders when crafting responses to energy problems. He stressed the need to widen access to energy services for the poor and mainstream energy in the development process. The Conference had strong links to the current cycle of the Commission. He hoped the conclusions of the Conference would be useful as a contribution to the current session.
Presenting the outcome of the International Symposium on Integrated Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, held in Nanchang, China, from
10 to 12 May 2005, CHENG SHUIFENG (China), said discussions centred around the sustainable development of economy and society, which was of common concern to the entire globe. Several ingredients went into the success of the symposium, including careful planning and close collaboration and conformity with common international practices. Suggestions to promote sustainable development had included joining hands in promoting ecological construction, joining hands in developing industries of environmental protection, and joining hands in producing “green” foods.
She said that Jiangxi was a big agricultural province with excellent ecological environment and comparative advantages in developing green foods. It was endeavouring to build an export base of quality agricultural produce and to develop eco-farming. Another suggestion was to join hands in developing a cyclical economy. While accelerating its development, Jiangxi emphasized the integration of the cyclical economic concept into actual reality. It hoped to conduct long-term resource into the use of establishing and improving recycling and using renewable resources, especially waste glass, waste batteries and “white” garbage, in an effort to raise efficiency of resources, cyclical use and waste treatment.
Ms. ULATE (Costa Rica), reporting on the second International Meeting on Sustainable Consumption and Production, held in San Jose, Costa Rica from 5 to 8 September 2005, said the participants had included 150 experts from 70 countries and several international organizations. The issue of sustainable consumption and production had been selected at the Commission’s eleventh session as an inter-sectoral item to be dealt with at all future Commission sessions. During the meeting last September, various regional representatives had reported on the outcomes of their preparatory meetings and certain innovations undertaken in their regions. Those had included cooperation dialogues, with a view to having experts exchange views with various relevant agencies at the international level in the field of development and to explore ways to enhance implementation of the Marrakech process. Field visits had also taken place.
She said that the practice of clean travel certificates had also been discussed, and Costa Rica had tried that on a voluntary basis, paying a certain amount per ton of carbon dioxide emitted per trip for forests preservation. Projects were being developed with the private sector to ensure tourists had clean travel. Costa Rica would make up for gas emissions in its trip to Germany for the forthcoming football championship. So, sustainable tourism featured prominently in the discussions. Major differences between and within countries had emerged, however, depending on the countries’ production and consumption levels and patterns. Despite that, there was overall agreement among the high-level of representation that resource transfers were key to improving consumption patterns, and there was an overall very high political commitment. It was agreed that five working groups would be formed to promote progress, a web page had been established, and a third meeting on the item would be held in Sweden in 2007.
SHARON LEE SMITH, Director-General of the Climate Change International Directorate of Environment of Canada, presented the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Montreal from 28 November to 9 December 2005. She said four main results emerged from that meeting. First, two processes were launched in Montreal enabling the start-up of discussions regarding the future of the Framework Convention and the Protocol. Secondly, parties agreed to the implementation of the Marrakech Accords. Third, progress was made to address adaptation under the Framework Convention. Fourth, actions were taken to improve the operational efficiency of the Kyoto Protocol. Highlights from the numerous side events included an international youth declaration and a statement on climate change in the arctic region.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) presenting the outcome of the International Symposium on Natural Gas and Sustainable Development, held in Doha from 7 to 8 February 2006, said it was widely believed that fossil fuels would continue to account for at least 80 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption until 2030. Therefore, sustainable development in all its aspects would continue to be significantly linked to the availability of clean energy and highly efficient technologies necessary to develop resources in producing countries, on the one hand, and to the level of consumption in consuming countries, on the other. Natural gas would also continue to be of great importance, particularly in the field of power generation and industrial and household use, given the advantages it had for the environment and its industrial safety. It was estimated that natural gas would account for at least 24 per cent of the total world energy consumption.
The Symposium, he said, identified the importance and strategic dimension of natural gas in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly with regard to raising living standards and alleviating poverty in the developing countries. It underscored the environmental qualities of natural gas, which were related to lower greenhouse gas emissions. It stressed that natural gas was a cleaner source of energy and a strong vehicle for socio-economic development in both producing and consuming countries. Moreover, it recommended that natural gas be supported at the level of the World Trade Organization (WTO), given the fact that it was a clean and favourable commodity for sustainable development. The Symposium also recommended that more attention be given to technological research and development in the field of gas production, processing and transport.
JAMAL SAGHIR, World Bank, reporting on World Bank Energy Week, held in Washington, D.C., from 6 to 10 March, said that Africa had been on everybody’s minds lately, because everyone knew how critical energy was for poverty growth and production. Africa faced a particular challenge, as well as a particular opportunity, for which access to electricity was imperative. In sub-Saharan Africa, that had slowly increased from 9 per cent in 1970 to 23 per cent in 2005, but that was “nowhere enough”, and in rural Africa, less than 1 per cent of the population in countries like Mali had electricity. Indeed, light meant freedom in Africa and elsewhere, and freedom meant survival. Africa was, and must remain, a priority.
He said that the good news from Energy Week was that hydropower and other resources could be harnessed to produce energy. The bad news was that the necessary resources were not forthcoming. Africa was not looking for a “hand-out”, but a “hand-up”. In order to meet the developing world’s energy demand, clean energy was key. Energy security meant different things to different people. For the poor, it was a vital ingredient out of poverty. The impact of the surge in oil prices of the last few months had had a tremendously negative impact on developing countries, particularly in Africa. Also examined had been the effect of corrupt governance, not only on the energy sector, but on the whole infrastructure.
Presenting outcome of the Baku Symposium on Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Development in the Caspian Region, from 14 to 16 March, YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said the focus of the talks had been on, among other aspects, energy efficiency, conservation, energy supply systems, public and private systems, and alternative energy sources. A Baku Declaration was adopted on energy efficiency and sustainable development in the Caspian Sea region. It emphasized that energy efficiency played an important role in helping countries achieve sustainable development, and it stressed that energy efficiency offered “win-win” solutions. The Declaration said that energy efficiency should be backed by a supportive framework of policies and a regulatory framework, which included energy efficiency policies and agencies, voluntary agreements with industry, and energy efficient standards, codes and testing.
He said the outcome text also stressed the need for the access of oil-producing and -exporting countries to more efficient and clean fossil fuel technologies. Moreover, the importance of technology transfer had been highlighted in the context of gas production, supply, distribution and reinjection. An in-depth discussion had been held on initiatives in the Caspian region on the production and transport of oil and gas resources.
S. BEHURA (India), presenting the outcome of Climate Change and Sustainable Development: an international workshop to strengthen research and understanding, held in New Delhi from 7 to 8 April 2006, said sustainable development had emerged as a key theme in policy debates. India, in cooperation with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Tata Energy and Resource Institute, organized the workshop to strengthen understanding on climate change and sustainable development. Participants discussed the interlinkages between different multilateral environmental instruments, and felt that the broader development community must be kept appraised of the different aspects of climate change. Further research about how climate change needs could be integrated into development strategies was needed. The benefits of climate change mitigation were underscored, as was the need for public awareness at both the policy-maker and community levels in developed and developing countries.
Ms. DU TOIT ( South Africa), presenting the outcome of African Ministerial Conference on Hydropower and Sustainable Development held from 8 to 10 March 2006, said ministers of water and energy gathered at the Conference adopted a ministerial declaration and action plan. In doing so, they agreed to work together to unlock the hydropower potential of Africa. They emphasized the importance of capacity-building not only for hydropower, but also for climate change. They were committed to mainstreaming gender issues as appropriate. Also, they agreed that the costs of social and environmental mitigation should be fully assessed within the costs of projects. They were committed to ensuring that the outcomes of the Conference would fit into the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and national and regional plans of action. They also called on funding agencies to engage with Africa on hydropower projects.
On behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said the session was an opportunity to further identify new, dynamic ways to promote the integration of the three components of sustainable development -- economic development, social development, and environmental protection – which were interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars. The four themes of energy for sustainable development were of paramount importance, as those encompassed political, economic, social and environmental dimensions. The fourteenth session of the Commission should identify the barriers and constraints that all countries, particularly developing countries, were facing in the implementation of the Agenda 21 and Johannesburg Action Plan around those themes. Their consideration during the next session should result in the setting of policies and practical measures, which, if done appropriately and in a manner that took into account the interests of all countries, could help the world community tackle its most serious challenges.
Despite the world’s best efforts, he said, it was clear that more international support was needed to meet the goals. The international community should also support African countries in implementation of NEPAD, as well as other regional initiatives. Also important was to recall the huge impact on developing countries of natural disasters. The meting was also taking place at a critical juncture for the developing world in the context of United Nations reform. The United Nations was the only platform on which the developing world was afforded a fair opportunity to raise issues of concern essential to its survival. In that spirit, it requested that the current discussion be informed by a “sincere quest” to find ways of implementing Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Action Plan, as the World Summit Outcome. The collective political will to address the three pillars of sustainable development had been declared, but that had not been converted into action.
The internationally agreed development goals were not a choice for developing countries, but a necessity, he said. It was not entirely within the capacity of those countries, however, to bring that to pass without a friendly global environment and enabling policies and practices. Development partners should make good their promises to provide stable, predictable and adequate financial resources. Although development aid had reached an all-time high, it remained at a historically low level as a share of donor country income. Among his concerns: the Millennium Development Goals were still far from being achieved; the prevalence of HIV/AIDS had increased worldwide; full implementation of the Monterey commitments remained elusive; and the biggest financial mechanism -- the Global Environmental Facility -- faced problems on the threshold of each replenishment, creating a bottleneck for many projects in the pipeline.
He stressed that, for the Group of 77 and China, poverty eradication remained one of its highest priorities. To achieve that, it must find ways of changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development -- all of which were overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development. Sustainable patterns of production and consumption, with developed countries taking the lead, should be underscored and should receive adequate attention at the national, regional and international levels. The international community, especially the developed countries, should spare no efforts in meeting the needs of developed countries for advanced and appropriate technologies, financial resources, education and training, capacity-building, and human resources promotion.
ELFRIEDE A. MORE ( Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the current Commission on Sustainable Development cycle was intended to address a significant number of challenges facing all countries. Those challenges would require not only policy changes, but also a change of individual and societal behaviour. She wished to see strong emphasis placed on means of implementation and other cross-cutting issues, in particular the promotion of sustainable consumption and production with individuals and companies, as well as of corporate social and environmental responsibility and accountability with the private sector. Likewise, an integrated approach would be essential for addressing and overcoming financial constraints in paving the way to global sustainable development. Policy decisions made today would have far-reaching environmental, social and economic consequences. Therefore, the cost of inaction should be borne in mind throughout the Commission’s deliberations.
She believed the current session would identify central challenges and constraints to pave the way for meaningful discussions and decisions at the next session on policies and actions to overcome them. In 2001, the European Union adopted a comprehensive sustainable development strategy, which was currently undergoing an ambitious review. The revised strategy would be adopted in June 2006 and would confirm the collective commitment to approach policy-making in an integrated manner, and promote synergies and coherence across policies, both internal and external. Furthermore, the Union had adopted a timetable for members to increase aid budgets and to achieve 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2015, with an intermediate collective target of 0.56 per cent by 2010, and called on partners to follow that lead. Those commitments should see annual European Union aid double to over €66 billion in 2010.
JULIAN R. HUNTE ( Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said the current session was of great importance to small island developing States, given their vulnerability to climate change and the highly intricate linkages between energy and their sustainable development. It was cruel and ironic that, while those States contributed the least to global emissions of greenhouse gases, they were the most vulnerable to climate change and least able to protect themselves from its adverse effects. The failure of countries to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions meant that the vulnerability of small island developing States would continue to increase and that adaptation to climate change must continue to be a major priority for them.
He noted with concern that the Secretary-General’s report made scant reference to the issue of adaptation to climate change. Ever since the 1992 adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, there had been global agreement that in order to counter climate change there must be mitigation and adaptation measures. Either of those measures in isolation made no sense. The impact and threats from climate change were real for small island developing States and required urgent and immediate action on the part of all countries. Developed countries were encouraged to invest in renewable energy projects in small island developing States, so that those States could benefit from the lucrative carbon market and assist in enabling developed countries to meet their Kyoto Protocol emissions reduction targets.
He said it should be an urgent priority for the international community to support small island developing States in the development and implementation of national climate change action plans and strategies. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the financing mechanism of the Climate Change Convention, must simplify its rules of access and disbursement to take into account the special peculiarities and circumstances of small island developing States. Additional resources within GEF’s own climate change focal area should be directed to support adaptation activities. He added that the organization of work for the current session did not address issues in the cluster in a fair and balanced manner. He hoped that did not set a precedent for the Commission’s future work.
TENS C. KAPOMA (Zambia), on behalf of the African Group, said that, although the African continent was endowed with considerable energy, such as oil, gas and coal reserves, it lagged behind all the other continents in energy use. The average electricity access rate in sub-Saharan Africa was estimated at about 23 per cent, with big disparities between countries, as well as urban and rural areas. Inadequate access to modern energy was a serious impediment to poverty reduction and Africa’s overall socio-economic development. The regional review process had identified some specific challenges to the African region, including largely untapped energy resource potential, low share of renewable energy, low private sector investment and participation in the energy sector, and underdeveloped infrastructure.
He said that industrial development, particularly through technologies and processes that used natural resources more efficiently, was a vital precondition for sustainable development. The challenges faced by the African countries in that area included a weak policy environment, limited access to latest technologies, and inadequate levels of skilled work force. As latecomers to industry, African countries faced additional challenges emanating from an increasingly competitive environment. Most African countries had been unable to take advantage of the opportunities provided by globalization. Africa also remained highly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, particularly droughts and floods. The majority of African economies were heavily dependent on agriculture, with most of sub-Saharan Africa relying primarily on rain-fed agriculture. Thus, disasters related to climate change had direct negative consequences on poverty reduction and food security in Africa, often leading to famine.
Inextricably linked to climate change was the problem of air/atmosphere pollution caused by unsustainable patterns of energy resource production and consumption, he said. Air/atmosphere pollution had had, and continued to have, serious negative consequences on human health, ecosystems, infrastructure and climate change in Africa. Several factors had constrained progress in that area in African countries, including weak national energy and public health policies, limited access to cleaner technology financing, lack of early warning systems and data collection capacities. Progress in the areas of energy, climate change, sustainable industrialization and air/atmosphere pollution should be addressed in an integrated manner in combination with efforts aimed at a number of cross-cutting areas critical to Africa’s development, most notably poverty eradication and health. He sincerely hoped that the current review session would provide the platform for the adoption of policy measures at the next session to adequately address the concerns and needs of African countries and enable them to advance towards achieving their sustainable development goals.
Ms. CRITCHLOW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, recalled Economic and Social Council resolution 2003/61, which established that the Commission’s organization of work should contribute to advancing the implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and that the treatment of specific issues should be examined in a balanced manner. The analysis and debate on topics in the future should guarantee such balance, with specific sessions scheduled to analyse such interrelations among the topics. At the same time, she requested the Secretary-General to present in future sessions a report on each topic to be analyzed by the Commission and, if considered necessary, to prepare another document on the interrelations between them.
She anticipated that, in all cycles and for every issue, decision and relevant commitment, the Commission should deal with the means of implementation. To that end, the challenges related to fostering more meaningful cooperation, technology transfer, the transfer of resources and capacity-building remained issues of deep interest for the Rio Group. The issues under consideration in the present implementation cycle were especially important for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Group would participate actively in the discussions on those issues in the coming days, both on the peculiar merit of the individual themes in sustainable development and also with a view to taking advantage of the synergies that emerged from an integrated treatment.
NIKOLAY V. CHULKOV ( Russian Federation) said his country was fully committed to implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Action Plan and would continue to do its best to find solutions to the issues of sustainable development, both at national and international levels. It was of principal importance to focus the work of the current session on an objective analysis of the Johannesburg outcomes, based, as much as possible, on concrete data. The Secretary-General’s report was a very good basis in that regard, but its format -- an integrated report -- limited the scope for addressing each theme and making the in-depth analysis. As for the practical organization of the work of forthcoming discussions, it was important that delegations “stick” to the parameters set out in the World Summit on Sustainable Development document and focus the thematic debates on conceptual issues of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, so as to exclude duplication with substantive activities of relevant international organizations and conventions in respective areas.
He also stressed the need to work consistently during the inter-sessional period on such issues as preparation and organization of work of the session. The key element was to ensure an organized session that would allow for adequate consideration of all the issues in a thematic cluster. The Commission should be able to reach consensus conclusions on the issues, bearing in mind the specificities of different countries, groups of countries and regions. The session’s outcome should set a solid basis for better understanding of constraints in implementing the Johannesburg outcomes and facilitating effective political decisions to address those constraints at the next policy session. Also, it was important to not lose sight of national and regional dimensions. Turning the Johannesburg commitments into practical actions was high on his country’s national agenda. Towards that goal, partnership cooperation between government authorities and administrations, civil society and business were being enhanced.
His country was also committed to scaling up implementation of activities at the national level as demonstrated by the implementation of “The Environmental Doctrine of the Russian Federation” and the adoption of legislative acts that incorporated sustainable development principles, he said. There was also an ever-growing attention to the implementation of strategies addressing the thematic issues of the current session, namely “Energy Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2020”. The Russian Federation was also a party to nearly all major multilateral environmental conventions related to the current cluster. It ratified the Kyoto Protocol, as well as several amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer – the Montreal, Copenhagen and Beijing amendments. It was currently working on acceding to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Measures had also been taken to enhance the effectiveness of efforts to decrease air pollution. In addition, the production of leaded gasoline had been phased out, and new criteria on harmful auto transport emissions had been established.
Mr. ZHANG ( China) said that the overall situation remained grave for global sustainable development. Such trends as environmental deterioration, ecological damage, land degeneration, poverty and infectious diseases were yet to be reversed. It was imperative to combine national strategies for sustainable development with international cooperation. He welcomed the commitments made by some developed countries for increasing official development assistance (ODA), hoping that those commitments could be realized in time and that it was channelled to the most needy sectors in developing countries. That would help build the capacity of developing countries in coping with the challenges of environment and development.
Attaching great importance to the role of trade for sustainable development, he called on all parties to make concerted efforts in speeding up the trade negotiation and realizing the objectives of the Doha development round. The current protectionist approach by developed countries of restricting export from developing countries hindered not only the sound development of international trade, but also the realization of sustainable development. That approach should be corrected. Science and technology was of great importance to coping with environmental challenges and leaping forward in national development. He expected to see actions by developed countries that had a technological edge in the transfer of environment-friendly technologies.
The representative of Indonesia said that geopolitical uncertainty only heightened energy insecurity. The latest surge in energy prices should serve as a wake-up call that many counts were vulnerable, owing to their dependence on oil. Much more should be done to conserve energy, and Indonesia was doing much in that regard. The current global pattern of economic growth could lead to irreversible damage. Thus, the international community should explore ways to improve energy efficiency and enhance sustainability. Technologies should be sought that offered “win-win” solutions for lowering cost and reducing pollution, but that remained particularly challenging for some developing countries.
He advocated the elaboration of a strategic plan at all levels. Indonesia was finalizing a draft law on natural resources management, which involved all stakeholders. The draft was aimed at synergizing various energy sectors seeking to achieve the sustainable energy objective. Research was being undertaken in renewable energy resources, particularly in small-scale and rural areas. In addition, several governmental and regulatory frameworks were being put in place, including a presidential decree for renewable energy and other ways to increase the energy supply. The Government had also put in place several pieces of legislation and initiatives, in an earnest effort to implement its commitment to achieve its sustainable development objective. The role of the Commission was critical in that regard, especially as it moved towards the next policy session, he stressed.
WERNER OBERMEYER, of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), presented the outcome of the ninth special session of the Governing Council, Global Ministerial Environment Forum, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 7 to 9 February 2006. During the current session, he said, UNEP would host and participate in numerous events on, among other things, consumption and production patterns, cleaner fuels and corporate responsibility. Although the Dubai meeting adopted a landmark agreement on international chemicals management, the focus of the ministers of some 150 Member States present was on the environmental aspects of energy and tourism. Their conclusions were contained in the President’s summary, called the United Arab Emirates Initiative, copies of which would be available in the room. The Minister of the Environment of Indonesia, who was also the President of the UNEP Governing Council, will be here next week during the high-level segment and would elaborate further on the Dubai meeting.
JANE ROSS, of the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), introduced the report on the Mountain Partnership, prepared for the current session by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, at the invitation of the General Assembly at its sixtieth session. The report provided an update on progress made since the inception of the Mountain Partnership, discusses some key challenges facing the Partnership, as well as lessons learned and proposals to strengthen the effectiveness of the alliance. Launched at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Partnership was meant to be a platform to improve the livelihoods of mountain people and the stewardship of mountain environments around the world.
As the report demonstrated, the Mountain Partnership had become increasingly operational as a multi-stakeholder alliance, she noted. Of the 300 partnerships in the Commission on Sustainable Development’s partnership database, the Mountain Partnership was among the biggest with over 130 members. However, despite progress and achievement in some areas, challenges remained. Nearly four years after it was launched, the Mountain Partnership was at a critical juncture. In 2002, there had been high expectations that new and innovative partnerships would accelerate the implementation of sustainable development policies. But the reality of Governments and intergovernmental and major group organizations working together had proven to be more challenging, if not elusive, than initially anticipated. She hoped some, if not all, of the issue outlined in the report would be of interest and relevant to the development of other Commission partnerships.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that the vicious chain of challenges was illustrated by the current energy crisis in his country caused by drought and rising oil prices. Like most eastern African countries, Tanzania had been hit by unusual drought, which was adversely affecting the generation of hydropower -- the major source of the country’s energy supply. As world oil prices soared, the oil alternative was becoming increasingly untenable. Coal was plentiful, but remained unexploited for lack of investment, and when that became possible, clean coal technology would come at a price. Alternative renewable sources were potentially promising and just beginning to be integrated into national energy strategies, but that also required substantial capital investment and technology transfer.
He said his Government was committed to achieving sustainable development through the full implementation of the agreed international targets. At the country level, the commitments were reflected in the national strategy for growth and poverty reduction, which incorporated various policies. Those ranged from industrial and energy policies to environmental, mineral and water policies, to name a few. At subregional, regional and global levels, his country had ratified several conventions, protocols and initiatives. Tanzania had abundant energy resources, but only 10 per cent of its potential hydroelectric power was developed. Coal reserves were estimated at 1,200 million tons, and natural gas at 44 billion cubic metres. All of that was only beginning to be tapped. Electricity supply was planned to triple in 20 years, due to expansion in the mining and industrial sectors, and the need for rural electrification, where 75 of the population lived.
The Government also sought to attract private sector investment into the gas and petroleum exploration in geologically promising parts of the country, he said. There was also a need for wide private investment in alternative and renewable energy generation, transmission and distribution. Industrial sector employment accounted for some 18 per cent of the total wage employment and remained the largest single source of urban employment. The industrial sector still faced several domestic and international constraints, including high production costs such as high power tariffs and erratic power supply, high transportation costs and increased fuel prices, as well as high-lending interest rates, insufficient long-term loans, inadequate water supply, and a weak technological base.
Finally, he said, successful implementation of his country’s national strategy depended on domestic resource mobilization complemented by an increase of ODA and other forms of aid, transfer of environmentally sound technologies, increased foreign direct investment, cancellation of external debt and assistance in human and capacity building in a timely and predictable manner. Sustainable livelihoods in both rural and urban areas were compatible with, and depended upon, environmental protection and sustainability. Tanzania was the only country in the world that had allocated more than 25 per cent of its total area to wildlife parks, game and forest reserves. It had embarked on an ambitious policy of land use, representation and afforestation to conserve water resources and rainwater harvesting to enhance people’s livelihoods, while preserving the national heritage for humankind.
GUNNAR PALSSON, Director, Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, said energy services were a pivotal part of economic well-being and security in the industrialized world. Also, providing energy access in developing countries was seen as key to alleviating poverty. The world found itself at a crossroads. Global energy demand was expected to rise by some 60 per cent by 2030, the lion’s share of that increase coming from the developing world. The challenge was to find a way to safeguard the world’s ecosystem, while at the same time raising the level of human well-being and fostering economic growth. For some, the two goals might seem hardly reconcilable, especially given the patterns of consumption in the industrialized world. “But we should not have to make a choice between higher living standards and a clean environment.”
Renewable energy, already the third electricity generation source worldwide (after coal and gas), offered various economic, environmental, security and reliability benefits as compared with fossil fuels, he said. The 2004 Bonn Conference estimated that up to 1 billion people could be given access to energy services from renewable sources. The basic technologies to attain that goal were already at hand. What was needed was an enabling policy framework and leadership. Iceland had a long-standing commitment to international cooperation on the sustainable use of energy. The Geothermal Department of the United Nations University, hosted by Iceland, had for many years been a valuable tool for the sharing of technological expertise and experiences with developing countries.
ROHAN RICHARDS, Director, Environment Management, Ministry of Local Government and Environment of Jamaica, said that implementation reviews had shown that, in many areas, natural resources were increasingly being depleted and social conditions were worsening. It was discouraging to note that many developing countries were not on track to achieving poverty reduction goals and that half of the developing world lived without improved sanitation. For that reason, the issue of resources and the adequate provision thereof remained critical to providing developing countries with a platform to achieve sustainable development. One reason for the slow progress in implementation was the tendency to treat environment and development in an isolated manner, and not taking critical note of the cross-cutting issue.
He said it should be possible at this stage to realize the critical interdependent and mutually reinforcing linkages between the social, economic, environmental and governance pillars of sustainable development and to achieve progress in implementing, at national levels, those strategically focused international blueprints for improvements in the lives of all peoples. As a small island developing State, the issues for action identified in the Mauritius Strategy, particularly concerning climate change, coastal resources, energy, natural resources and biodiversity, natural and manmade disasters, and land degradation, remained priorities for implementation.
Countries like his faced formidable challenges in effectively advancing the goals, he said. While Jamaica had made some progress, it was constrained by the lack of capacity to address all the complex development issues. What it needed most was the support of the international community in building capacity -- financial, human and institutional -- in order to ensure the implementation of the agreed goals and objectives. Particularly important for the small island developing States was natural disaster-risk reduction and mitigation. Jamaica’s economy, on numerous occasions, had been negatively impacted by natural and environmental disasters. The increased frequency and intensity of tropical storms, especially the very active 2005 hurricane season, made that issue a particular concern. Tremendous resources were required to respond to such disasters, and that diverted government funds from planned social and economic programmes. The chosen course called for an urgent exploration of effective, durable, reliable and measurable means of implementation for developing countries.
YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) said that the Johannesburg Summit had allowed for the placement of energy at the heart of the debate on sustainable development. During the Summit, a consensus had emerged on energy development around quantifiable objectives. He noted that, since then, not all commitments had been kept, particularly in relation to Africa. Hydrocarbons were the natural resources at the heart of development. The energy sector in developing countries was very investment intensive. The investments in the energy sector had allowed Algeria to build jobs and the infrastructure needed to meet the needs of a growing population.
According to a global report published in 2005, $30 billion was invested in 2004 in the renewable energy sector, which covered only 4 per cent of global energy capacity. It was not realistic to nurture the illusion that there were new energy sources that could replace fossil fuels. Also, the reasons to accelerate the renewable energy sector did not allow for the extension of their use that was compatible with the growth and development objectives of developing countries. Algeria was aware that adapting to change was necessary, and had made changes in its energy and industrial sectors, keeping in mind the country’s development needs and environmental protection. Specific actions had been taken at both the global and national levels. In addition to promoting liquefied gas, efforts had been made to allow substantial reduction in greenhouse emissions. Actions were also undertaken to market less polluting carbons and improve the quality of those that existed, with a vast array of partnerships, particularly in Africa.
Ms. SOTO ( Costa Rica), on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said that the region was currently involved in trade negotiations with its partners in the environment, labour, business and civil society. The deepening globalization process had brought new challenges and risks, as well as new opportunities, rendering regional agreements more important for the development agenda. As part of that panorama, there was market volatility, increased competition for goods and services, and energy crisis -- all of which was having an impact on sustainable development objectives and initiatives. Clean energy for all without further deterioration of the environment was a main commitment of the Central American economic framework. The region was working to implement economic friendly patterns, and it was seeking to strengthen the management of ecosystems. Among its many other programmes, it was working with micro- and medium-sized enterprises to fight poverty, develop renewable energy, satisfy the region’s energy needs, and mitigate greenhouse effects.
She said that the countries of the region were particularly concerned about climate change, notably the high vulnerability of the territory to weather patterns, including the increase in floods and hurricanes. The region was currently participating in the recently launched dialogue within the framework of the Climate Change Commission. She reiterated her commitment to achieving sustainable development and she acknowledged the importance of the four subjects, which should be debated in an open and constructive manner in the coming days.
ERSIN ERÇIN ( Turkey) said that energy for sustainable development, air pollution/atmosphere and climate change were closely interlinked. Addressing all those issues in an integrated manner could provide an opportunity to utilize cleaner and more energy efficient industrial technologies, as well as addressing the cross-cutting issues of poverty eradication, health and gender equity. Turkey’s energy strategy was multi-dimensional. The gap in Turkey’s energy supply and demand was one of the key elements which determined its energy policies. Hence, Turkey pursued policies to ensure diversified, reliable and cost-effective supply sources for its growing energy need in order to match its economic and social development, while continuing the process of liberalization of its energy market.
Another aspect of the strategy was to become a major consumption and transit terminal in its region, he said. With its emerging and growing economy, Turkey was facing a gradual increase of its energy demand by 8 per cent per annum. Turkey strongly believed that development and widespread adoption of cleaner and renewable energy technologies would help to reduce air pollution and advance sustainable development at the global level. However, considerable efforts were still required to meet the Johannesburg target of substantially increasing the global share of renewable energy sources in the total energy supply.
Mr. BEHURA ( India) said that, for developing societies such as India, efforts to alleviate poverty required secure energy at low-end, stable prices. A pressing concern was inefficient cooking stoves, which not only put pressure on natural resources, but forced women and children to spend many hours a day at the task of cooking. That vicious cycle kept them from other activities, including even education, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. There was significant potential for hydropower, nuclear energy and natural gas. India’s energy strategy must be based on a judicious mix of those resources, while maintaining a sustainable environment. Meanwhile, the country had been working to ensure that all Indian cities complied with ambient air standards, and, indeed, air pollution had fallen by about one half in India’s cities.
He said that, per capita, India’s primary energy use was about one twelfth that of Norway and one sixteenth that of the United States and Canada. Of utmost necessity were financial resources and capacity-building. He agreed with the conclusions of the Secretary-General when he said that the Millennium Development Goals would only be reached if the international community broke with business as usual. India’s delegation looked forward with hope to the possibility that the current Commission session would have decisive breaks with the past, he said.
CONALL O’CONNELL (Australia) said that during the current session, Australia would emphasize the myriad of practical partnerships across the four themes that would be necessary for implementing the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, including improving access to energy services for the over 2 billion people who currently were without sustainable energy services. Good governance and liberalized trade were crucial to underpinning sustainable economic development and implementation of the Plan.
On governance, he noted that political stability and effective political and institutional governance was essential for attracting investment and achieving sustainable development. Development assistance programmes would fail to deliver progress on sustainable development if political decision makers in partner countries ignored the broad basic interests of their States. Political governance failed where sectional interests and allegiances, and corruption were allowed to predominate. In those cases, the actions of a few undermined the prosperity of entire nations.
Turning to trade, he said it was through genuine, free and open multilateral trade and investment that all countries would be able to attain sustained economic growth and self-sufficiency. The successful conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations could enable 32 million people to be lifted out of poverty by the Millennium Goal target date of 2015. Australia promoted poverty reduction by providing well targeted and effective aid, appropriate debt relief, and duty-free and quota-free market access to goods from least developed countries.
GARY PRINGLE ( Canada) said that improving energy efficiency, developing conventional and non-conventional energy resources, and being responsible energy consumers situated energy in the context of industrial development. Meanwhile, the development and deployment of innovative, cleaner, more efficient energy technologies, including renewables, as well as the cleaner use of fossil fuels, helped to address the important issues of air pollution and climate change. Having the right mix of policies was integral to allowing the world to meet its environmental and social objectives, while harnessing the benefit of markets for economic development. Canada had extensive energy resources and expertise, from renewables such as biomass, solar, wind power and hydroelectricity, to the responsible production and use of nuclear energy, natural gas, petroleum and coal.
He said he was well aware of the major challenge posed by the need for new energy infrastructure, as well as access to affordable energy services, so necessary for eradicating “energy-poverty” around the world. Through its development assistance programme, Canada focused on supporting policies aimed at building legal and regulatory frameworks attractive to both domestic private sector investment and foreign direct investment. The developing world had a unique opportunity to employ innovative and transformative technologies to build a cleaner and more environmentally sustainable energy infrastructure from the existing base. Industry was a major user of energy, and, thus, could be a prime player in actions to reduce air pollution and mitigate the effects of climate change. Industry also provided employment and alleviated poverty.
Although the air quality in Canada was good, more pollution was affecting Canadians than in the past, he said. Thus, poor air quality was having direct health effects in many places, and addressing the issue was a priority for Canada. The mandate from the Prime Minister had been clear: clean up the air that Canadians breathed. A clean air act, therefore, would be the first action under that mandate, and it would be looking at regulation for industry, which would ensure that industry was operating at the level of its competitors, or higher. Working with others to address air pollution and the atmosphere would be essential, as air pollution knew no boundaries. Already, in terms of the North American continent, Canada had met with the United States at the highest level to make progress on the issue of air pollution and the atmosphere. Climate change was a global challenge requiring a global solution.
YOSHIAKI ITO ( Japan) said that, for sustainable development to move forward, energy must be addressed in a decisive manner. Japan had adopted policies to reduce and make more efficient its use of energy. As a result, it was the most energy efficient country in the world. It had made efforts to promote clean and environment-friendly technology to combat air pollution. Drawing on that experience, Japan intended to extend cooperation to share good practices, assist in institution-building and in developing human resources. Japan was playing a major role on global warming. It worked with others, including by sponsoring international dialogue. Recently, the price of energy had soared, and it was crucial that the market be stabilized. At the same time, it was necessary to promote renewable energy sources that could be produced domestically. All of that needed to be discussed in depth.
NABEELA ABDULLA AL-MULLA ( Kuwait) said that, as a developing country, Kuwait depended on exporting energy in a way that ensured that other societies had a chance to develop. She reiterated the importance of cooperation in global efforts to make better use of energy and increase investments in a way that ensured its effective and clean supply. In order to achieve optimal energy use, a more sophisticated and clean technology was needed at all critical stages of energy use. One of the major challenges and obstacles in attaining that in several countries was the lack of access to appropriate technology and the lack of ability to build capacity, combined with a lack of financial resources.
She said her country attached particular importance to problems related to air pollution and climate change. Those questions should be dealt with globally and should take into consideration all effects of such pollution. Kuwait had ratified the Kyoto Protocol. All stages in the process of protecting the globe from climate change implied a “collective and differentiated” responsibility. Instead of justifying the deterioration in the climate situation, it would be far better to work together to improve it. She reiterated the principle of the responsibility of international organizations to work together for a better future for all.
SHLOMO SHOHAM ( Israel) said that in the field of energy, Agenda 21 emphasized the importance of improving access to electricity. It was inconceivable that almost 2.4 billion people in the world had no access to modern energy services. However, the challenge in the area of energy in developed countries, including Israel, was engaging in conservation as opposed to excessive consumption. That was a challenge of living in a more respectful and modest way. The prices of electricity in Israel were fairly low. The demand for energy was gradually growing, and its rate was higher than the population growth. That must be changed. Israel had faced, in the past three years, the challenge of moving from oil and coal-based energy to natural gas, a cleaner energy.
Israel, he said, had allocated two massive multi-annual budgets in order to reduce pollution from transportation and reduce the production of electricity from fossil fuels. The first budget would be used for upgrading the national railway system and the second would be appropriated for using natural gas to produce electricity.
Mr. CHAVE ( Switzerland) said that reforming the energy sector was essential, and Switzerland was working towards two interrelated objectives: achieving a revenue shift; and boosting energy efficiency, particularly the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and increasing the proportion of renewable forms in overall energy consumption. His Government had encouraged the transfer of freight from road to rail by using, among other incentives, a fee on heavy vehicles. Voluntary measures had been taken by some in industry, for example, in the cement business. The overall results, however, had been insufficient, so the Government was considering the introduction of compulsory measures. Improvements in production, distribution and the use of energy linked to essential services had undesirable effects on the environment, in an unfortunate and vicious circle. Strengthened efforts were needed, therefore, to save energy, on the one hand, and change consumption patterns, on the other, in both developing and industrialized States.
He said that safe energy that was reliable, affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound formed a constellation of potential “win-win” solutions. There were gains through energy efficiency, and positive impacts at various levels. For example, if companies could produce at lower costs, then consumers would benefit from lower prices, and the environment could benefit from less damaging emissions. The negative health impact would be decreased, and the environment would be less burdened. Political commitment was the key to master those demanding challenges.
JOANNE YAWITCH ( South Africa) said that, while significant progress had been made in many developing countries with implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, those actions were not being equally matched by actions in the developed world to address unsustainable growth and the resulting depletion of the natural resource base. The continuing and increasing levels of poverty, underdevelopment and natural resource degradation in the developing world cried out for more action. While some countries and the donor community had met their commitments, there were those that continued to move at a slower pace and with conditionalities.
To realize the Monterrey Consensus, she highlighted the need for an accelerated and integrated global effort through overseas development assistance, the creation of an environment conducive for investment and an equitable and fair trading system. In addition, there was a need for a global science and technology for development agenda that promoted technology transfer, as well as appropriate capacity-building programmes that were underpinned by viable financing mechanisms. South Africa attached great importance to the contribution of its major groups and of business and industry towards the achievement of the Johannesburg Plan’s targets.
NEBOJSA KALUDJEROVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) said that the main activities of his Government were focused on maintaining macroeconomic stability and increasing employment and investments. The overall objectives for the forthcoming period were the acceleration of economic growth and development, and the promotion of living standards and the quality of life. The economic priorities included the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises, with tourism, agriculture and forestry as priority sectors. The key document defining the government policies, the Agenda of Economic Reforms 2002-2007, recognized the major importance of the infrastructure and energy sectors for overall economic development. It devoted significant attention to the human development dimension, including to social protection, and the health and education sectors.
He said his country was in the final stages of drafting a national strategy for sustainable development, based on the United Nations and European Union recommendations. Following the establishment of the National Council for Sustainable Development in 2002, the Office for Sustainable Development was set up in January 2006. The development strategy, which should be completed in October, was expected to contain three elements, including economic and social issues, and the environment. Its elaboration was facing difficulties, owing to the lack of a multidisciplinary investigative approach and cross-sector cooperation; the problems resolved in one sector reappeared in another, in a different shape or form. The other aggravating circumstance concerned a lack of data.
As for air pollution, there was neither a register of greenhouse gases nor a national register of air pollutants, or an air monitoring network, he said. Moreover, there were still no economic measures with which to encourage the reduction of gas emissions. Serbia and Montenegro continued to require international funding in the area of capacity-building, in order to continue to focus on local communities. It also planned to invest significantly in education.
JONATHAN MARGOLIS ( United States) said that the Commission’s current session had the potential to make a significant impact on international awareness of, and access to, energy. “Our common goal for this two-year cycle of the Commission on Sustainable Development should be to achieve a measurable increase in the number of people around the world who have access to clean, affordable and healthy energy services.” Four issues would underlie United States efforts on energy -- governance, finance, technology and partnerships.
To promote investment and sound management, he said, it was essential to have the necessary policy and regulatory structures in place and to have accountable institutions addressing transparency and corruption. Also, with
$16 trillion for energy investment needed over the next 20 years, it was only through attracting private sources of capital that the need could be met. In addition, the full range of technologies, conventional, nuclear, renewable -- solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and biomass -- and efficiency technologies would all have roles.
Over the next two weeks, some important steps forward could be taken, he said. First, the Commission could begin to identify lessons learned and best practices from around the world. Second, it could advance its discussions on measuring results. Third, it could expand the networks of implementers, improving communication and linkages, so that smaller projects could grow and new approaches could flourish.
IFTIKHAR A. AKRAIN, Additional Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, said there was widespread recognition that the danger to the planet’s environment was far greater today than ever before. The progress towards the goal of achieving sustainable development was, at best, mixed and limited, with large pockets of poverty in regions and countries. The unprecedented increase in energy prices had provoked concerns over energy security and raised questions about the sustainability of progress made by the developing countries towards achieving the internationally agreed development goals. Important commitments towards enhancing ODA and granting debt relief had been made, and new and innovative financing sources had been explored. Addressing, in an integrated manner, the sustainable development challenges relating to the four issues to be deliberated could enhance synergies, help seize “win-win” opportunities and minimize trade-offs.
He said that addressing environmental degradation, together with eliminating poverty, was a contemporary imperative. Over the last decade, Pakistan had made significant progress in developing the necessary environmental policy and regulatory frameworks, and had developed environmental institutions and raised awareness in that regard. It had advanced the environmental agenda from being viewed as a “stand alone” topic to one that was seen as an integral part of the national mainstream development agenda. Pakistan’s medium-term development framework sought to establish a just and sustainable economic system and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The National Environmental Policy 2005 provided an overarching framework for achieving the sustainable development goals, and it sought to improve the quality of life of all Pakistanis through conservation, protection and improvement of the environment. The Initial Environmental Examination and the Environment Impact Assessment had been made mandatory for the public sector development projects.
Unfortunately, however, degradation of the environment continued to affect livelihoods and health, as well as increase the vulnerability of the poor to disasters and environment-related conflicts, he said. The current cost of environmental degradation was considerably higher than before. An assessment by the World Bank estimated the total cost of remediation at 2.6 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Availability of adequate funding remained a major constraint in effectively addressing global environmental challenges, and the recent commitments to enhance ODA flows and grant debt relief, welcome as those were, must be implemented at the earliest possible time. There was also a strong case for considering their consolidation and expansion to cover other deserving developing countries. Trade market access, access to environmentally friendly technologies on concessional terms, including renewable energy technologies, among others, would help developing countries generate the “fiscal space” and additional resources to implement their national sustainable development strategies.
PAOLO SOPRANO ( Italy) said that, according to the Commission’s multi-year programme of work, this year marked the starting point of the second cycle. At the same time, it was important to keep a focus on the outcomes of the twelfth session of the Commission. Italy was actively supporting the United Nations Secretariat in efforts to ensure follow-up regarding the water and sanitation sectors.
He noted that the General Assembly had declared 2006 the International Year of Deserts and Desertification. Desertification was among the most serious threats to the global achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In Africa, desertification dramatically affected the development process and the daily lives of people. Combating desertification should remain a priority on the development agenda.
The Johannesburg Plan had identified “type II” initiatives as a concrete tool for achieving sustainable development targets, he noted. Such partnerships were an effective means to achieve sustainable development goals. Following the Rome and Marrakech meetings, he looked forward to further opportunities to measure the effectiveness of current initiatives. In the Gleneagles Plan of Action, the Group of 8 leaders had agreed to launch a global partnership on bio-energy, based on an Italian initiative, in order to create a global high-level dialogue on
bio-energy. During next week’s high-level segment, Italy would launch the Global Bio-Energy Partnership.
Mr. YARTO ( Mexico) stressed the need for the Commission to approach its work in a balanced manner. In the last four years, Mexico had attained important progress in formulating and implementing policy and legal instruments, as well as in improving environmental management and adequate resources management. It had promoted respect for the environment and the development of a clean industry with which to adequate manage resources. It had also promoted renewable energy policy, efficient energy use, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, and the promotion of cleaner fuels, among other things. Efforts had increasingly been made to cover the four subject areas in a comprehensive manner, with specific emphasis on urban pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of climate change, his country would soon complete its inventory of greenhouse gases and present, at the next conference of States parties to the Framework Convention, its third national statement. It was also seeking to facilitate state-of-the-art fuel technology transfers, and not the transfer of contaminated, obsolete technology.
STEWART BECK ( Palau) said a constraint in his country’s pursuit of sustainable development was the lack of a United Nations presence on the ground and the complete absence of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) personnel in the nation. Palau recognized that good intentions underlay the regionalized system currently linking geographically similar States with available international partnerships. But at the end of the day, that arrangement served primarily to facilitate operations for donors and partners, while marginalizing the intended beneficiaries. Regionalism also disregarded a truism -- not all nations in a region had the same needs. As a result, Palau faced serious obstacles accessing available international assistance and tackling its sustainable development issues.
One needed to look no further than the GEF’s success in the North Pacific to see the tremendous difference individualized linkages to international assistance made, he said. What Palau was asking for was not simply a bigger basket of provisions to deal with energy use, industrial development, air pollution and climate change. Rather, Palau sought a more basic and necessary first step -- the establishment of a United Nations presence on the ground to link itself more effectively and efficiently with international partners. Only by having its own UNDP office would Palau build sufficient national capacity to effectively implement strategies for truly sustainable development.
COLLIN D. BECK ( Solomon Islands) said that there should be a standing group to monitor and coordinate programmes throughout the years, so as not to lose sight of the progress made during the Commission’s substantive sessions. On the four themes of the fourteenth session, like other delegations, he attached great importance to the topics. The Solomon Islands placed particular emphasis on ensuring that renewable energy was people-centred, as that opened up opportunities for the rural population, or 80 per cent of the country’s people, and allowed the country to make a positive contribution to climate change in terms of forestry, among other endeavours.
Mr. MACHADO ( Brazil) said he wanted to focus on energy, in particular the use of ethanol in Brazil. Over the past 30 years, his country had developed technology for using alcohol as fuel for transportation. It had been a huge and successful effort. Nowadays, there was no longer gasoline for sale in gas stations. What was available was a mix of 75 per cent gasoline and 25 per cent ethanol. At the same stations, one could buy pure ethanol for cars that run on that alone. Brazil had also developed the technology for flex-fuel engines. Those cars now constituted the majority of new cars in Brazil. “The consumer chooses according to the price at the pump.” The technology was there and Brazil was more than willing to share it with other developing countries, who could become suppliers of that new energy source. In that connection, he hoped that international trade in the area of sustainable energy could be opened and trade barriers brought down. The Brazilian Minister of Energy would be here next week and would explore those and other issues in depth.
ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA ( Tuvalu) said the need to address both the opportunities of energy and industrial development and the challenges of air pollution and climate change were not only important, but urgent. It was very clear that after 14 years of Agenda 21 and all its “offspring”, the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States such as Tuvalu had not been adequately addressed. Those States lacked the fundamental resilience capacity to deal with issues such as climate change. The task now was to ensure effective and sustained implementation of those outcomes on the ground in small island developing States. The main challenge remained simplified access to, and securing of, international financial and technical support to small island developing States.
Also, he said that oil prices at the current level in small island developing States, particularly due to their isolation, made development unsustainable and unattainable if countries continued on the current path. It was important to develop renewable energy in that regard. The establishment of a global fund for that was timely and important. The increasing intensity of the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise, had caused fear, as well as urgency for concrete action. He called on the international community to realize and appreciate that.
Summing up today’s discussions, Vice-Chairman ADRIAN FERNANDEZ ( Mexico) said that, in many countries, considerable progress had been made in the implementation of Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan and the Mauritius Strategy. Statements today had touched on the advantages, opportunities and synergies that might be derived from the consideration of the four topics, and dealing with them as a set of interrelated issues. There were also a number of countries that had insisted on the need to ensure that there was greatest possible balance among the four topics. The Commission also heard mention of the importance of issues such as poverty eradication and improving health. The aspects of more sustainable production and consumption should continue to occupy the Commission’s attention. Also mentioned was that good governance and trade liberalization were essential for implementation of the Johannesburg Plan.
The Commission, he continued, also heard about the importance of promoting clean energy, particularly those that improved the well-being of populations while promoting development. Technology transfer was mentioned by many, and it was important for many countries that environmentally-friendly technologies were shared and transferred so they could be employed throughout the world. Delegations also touched on sustainable transportation, which would help reduce greenhouse gases and impact the health of populations in urban centres. There were also remarks to the effect that some regions had already benefited from the application of economic schemes that prioritized the development of environmentally-friendly energy, particularly where there was the involvement of local communities. Also highlighted was the importance that must be given to the special needs of small island developing States. The international community must fulfil the needs of those States, and implement the Mauritius Strategy, as soon and as effectively as possible.
Parallel Thematic Discussion
As the Commission on Sustainable Development held its general debate, a parallel thematic panel addressed creative ways the international community can work together with developing countries to improve access to reliable, affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound energy services, particularly for rural women.
In the two-part discussion, the energy and environment experts, representatives of government delegations and civil society emphasized, among other things, the critical need for collaborative research and development between the developed and developing worlds on clean energy technologies, to build community-level capacities, and the importance of helping developing countries boost their community-level capacities so that new or improved energy and fuel infrastructures could be properly put in place and energy sources could be used effectively and responsibly.
During the first panel, on “improving access in urban and rural areas from the perspective of end-use” applications, many speakers focused on the need to reinvigorate international focus on the fuel/energy targets of the Millennium Development Goals. While the overall objective was poverty alleviation and eradication, without access to electricity, mechanical power and clean fuels, it would be nearly impossible for many countries to achieve economic goals. Indeed, several speakers stressed that electricity alone could help bridge many socio-economic development gaps by helping hundreds of millions of people living in rural areas find cooking and heating alternatives to coal.
The experts stressed that critical gaps were evident all over the developing world, where the focus should be as much on providing fuel -- clean or otherwise -- for basic needs such as cooking, as on boosting access to new technology, chiefly in rural areas. Following several calls for improving energy sectors in poor countries, Panel Chair YVO DE BOER, Director for International Affairs, Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment for the Netherlands, reminded everyone that there were perhaps 2.4 billion people around the world that wished they had an energy sector that needed reforming.
Some delegations highlighted the adherence to the rule of law and rooting out corruption as critical to insuring access to sustainable energy, while others stressed that one of the main reasons preventing children from participating in school activities was the burden of collecting fuel wood and also water, which affected their literacy and educational advancement. One expert suggested that efforts to achieve the relevant Millennium targets be broken up into smaller, more focused segments, for instance, providing, by 2015, modern cooking fuels “within 1 kilometre” for those areas populated by people that had to travel great distances to get to fuel sources.
A World Health Organization (WHO) representative and an environmental activist spotlighted another troubling dimension, noting that with some 2 billion people cooking with biomass fuels, some 1.5 million people a year died of respiratory ailments caused by indoor air pollution -- generated largely by inefficient and poorly ventilated stoves burning biomass fuels such as wood, crop waste and dung, or coal. More than half of those deaths occurred among children under five years of age.
Experts leading the second panel, on “gender and access to energy services”, stressed that women were the primary users and providers of energy sources in many developing countries. Much of women’s time was spent cooking, collecting fuel, wood and water, as well as agricultural planting and harvesting, all of which had dramatic impact on women and their status in these communities. They stressed that every effort should be made, therefore, to not only enhance women’s access to more reliable and cleaner fuel sources, but also to boost their participation in energy policy-making.
It was not only about providing affordable energy, one expert said, but providing such energy close to where women lived. She called for an emphasis on women as “energy managers” at community levels. After many developing country delegations described the challenges women faced in this area -- and stressed the need for international assistance to confront those challenges -- one expert called on all Governments in the developing world to do a better job about including a gender analysis dimension to their development activities, as well as to include gender issues in their poverty-reduction strategies.
One speaker called for a “New Deal” for women in the energy sector, which addressed their needs “from cradle to grave”, while others stressed the need for capacity-building education and addressing the health concerns, respiratory ailments, as well as knee or neck injuries, associated with the drudgery of collecting fuel. Stressing the importance of addressing those concerns, one African delegate said that, sadly, the red-eyes women acquired as a consequence of cooking with biomass fuels were often associated with witchcraft.
The experts on the fist panel were: Roderick F. de Castro, Programme Manager at the Mirant Philippines Foundation, Inc.; Jyoti Parikh, Executive Director of Integrated Research and Action for Development in India; and Olav Kjorven, the Director of UNDP’s Energy and Environment Group. The experts on the second panel were: Elizabeth Cecelski, Technical Adviser for Advocacy and Research of the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Development (ENERGIA); and Rose Mensah-Kutin, Regional Programme Manager of ABANTU for Development’s office for West Africa.Source: The UN