Renewables 2004 Conference Opens in Germany

One hundred and fifty-four countries represented by over 3000 participants opened the four-day Renewables 2004 conference called by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. The conference convened at the former German parliament on the Rhine River. The expected 250 media representatives ballooned into more than 700 as energy became a top story during the last few weeks.

Bonn, Germany – June 2, 2004 [] Opening the four-day conference, Tuesday, June 1, Jurgen Trittin, federal German minister for the environment, declared “The age of rewnewables has now begun.” He said the aim of the conference, which chancellor Schroder originally announced at the 2002 Johannesburg Summit Meeting on Sustainable development, is to produce a concrete global action program and for poor countries to be linked to the UN and other international programs aimed at poverty reduction. Trittin and other speakers hailed renewables as the key to bringing modern energy to the 2 billion people in the world without it. The UN has a goal of halving the number of people living in poverty by 2015. Issue papers prepared prior to the conference ticked off the case for renewables. Chief among them were: poverty alleviation; reduced oil dependence and economic benefits of saving oil import costs; jobs (120,000 people now work in renewables in Germany, said Trittin); combating climate change and pollution; clean and available water. But the official papers were vague about potential, calling for “accelerated” transition to renewables. Trittin did say at a press conference, renewables “are not a niche market. They are our future.” However, calls for a rapid and complete transition to renewables have been common. Outside the conference hall, eighty members of Solar Generation, an off-shoot of Green Peace, demonstrated for an end to the fossil age. Inside the hall, Abigail Gay Y. Jabines, a spokeswoman for the group, called for a “shift of fossil fuel subsidies to renewables,” to end conventional wisdom that renewables are not competitive in cost. A side meeting will explore scenarios for rapid transition of the entire energy economy to renewables. One focus of discussion has been the availability of financing for renewables. Federal German minister for economic cooperation and development, Heidmarie Wiecyorek-Zeul, said that renewables “are at the mercy of global financial markets which are anti-environmental and short term in their thinking.” Advocates appear to be targeting the World Bank and backing a report currently before its board of directors that calls for an end to World Bank financing of extractive industries and a switch to financing of renewables. Minister Trittin also joined the chorus of environmental groups and renewable energy associations that have sought to get mileage out of the current popularity of Hollywood’s exaggerated version of climate change released in U.S. theatres this past weekend – The Day After Tomorrow. “Average temperature continues to rise from decade to decade,” Trittin said. “Droughts, storms and floods continue to destroy development progress, especially in the countries of the South. Climate change is already a reality today, and not a fiction for the day after tomorrow.” Mark Braly is attending the four-day conference in Bonn, Germany as a correspondent for News
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