Hydropower, Monitoring, Solar

United Nations Commission Hears Proposals for Renewables

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development has started its first multi-stakeholder dialogue session on achieving access to sustainable energy.

NEW YORK, New York, US, 2001-04-17 <SolarAccess.com> The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development has started its first multi-stakeholder dialogue session on achieving access to sustainable energy. Energy issues will dominate the agenda of the CSD-9 commission, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Agenda 21 action program adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The group is expected to focus attention on reducing world consumption of fossil fuels and developing alternative sustainable energy options, and will examine ways of targeting energy subsidies in order to reduce the use of carbon fuels and encourage research in renewables and alternative energy technologies. This week’s discussion is the first time that an integrated discussion of energy as a sectoral issue has taked place at the U.N., says Under-Secretary-General Nitin Desai. Energy is central to many concerns around globalization and the resulting social and environmental impacts, and consumption has consequences for the global environment. If the definition of sustainable energy involves energy with minimum negative social, health and environmental impacts, nuclear power, fossil fuels and large-scale hydropower are not sustainable, says Shanti Sachithanandam of Sri Lanka. Current and advanced nuclear systems pose serious dangers and are capital intensive, while fossil fuels have negative impacts and are unsafe, she says. Governments must support an immediate moratorium on oil exploration and extraction in environmentally and socially sensitive areas, and must shift toward renewable technologies and conservation, she adds. Countries should consider implementing a tax based on carbon content, and people who lack access to modern energy should have key roles in decision-making at all levels. The primary obstacle to the use of more sustainable forms of energy was the “enormous amount” of government economic subsidies that perpetuated the myths of “cheap” fossil fuels and large-scale hydropower, or “clean” nuclear power, she explains. “If external costs related to energy production, such as health, environmental and social costs, were included, it became apparent that allegedly expensive renewable sources of energy were in fact much cheaper that the existing technologies.” Government subsidies should be phased out under a five-year timeframe, with initiatives and funding provided for conservation and the development of renewable energy sources and to finance a new U.N. agency for sustainable energy. There are two billion people in the world without access to energy, and P.J. Adam of the World Energy Council says access to 500 kWh per year for each person could be provided with annual investments of $30 billion over 20 years. CSD-9 will meet until April 27, after which the Commission will reconvene to prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in South Africa next year. The 2002 Summit will assess implementation of the agreements made at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment & Development. CSD has 53 country members elected for three-year terms: Algeria, Angola, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, Korea, Congo, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Macedonia, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom and United States.