OHRLLS Side Event: The Role of Clean and Renewable Energy in Promoting a Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS

OHRLLS Side Event:
The Role of Clean and Renewable Energy in Promoting a Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS

UN Headquarters, New York, NY
Conference Room 7, North Lawn Building
May 2, 2012

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Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra (Undersecretary-General and High Representative for the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS)

We must acknowledge the difficulties LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS are facing in light of climate change. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has acknowledged the need to move towards cleaner energy solutions, and has started an initiative called Sustainable Energy for All. The initiative’s objectives are to achieve: universal access to modern energy services, since 1.3 billion lack electricity and 40% of the world population relies on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste to cook their food; to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, which will create jobs, foster economic growth and improve energy security for countries that lack domestic fossil fuel resources; and finally to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, since the cost of clean energy technologies are rapidly falling and becoming economically competitive with fossil fuels.

Roma Stibravy (President of NGO Sustainability, Inc.)

Ms. Stibravy related that she has been working in the field of renewable energy since the early 1990s. Man made climate change is more evident as witnessed, for example, by increasing natural disasters. Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992, set the goals. Twenty years later we can better study climate change and measure its consequences. In the Intersessional  and Informal negotiations for Rio+20, an enabling environment and innovation have been off repeated themes. It is important to not only nurture technologies that succeed, but we must also nurture even the ones that fail as a learning experience to build on. We cannot do things the way they have been done in the past. There are an number of increasing communities or countries committing to a more sustainable future. The Scandinavian countries have made a commitment to becoming climate neutral by 2050. For the past 16 years an island in the Canary’s has been using almost exclusively geothermal energy. Over 26% of Iceland’s electrical energy is generated from geothermal sources. In addition, geothermal heating is used to heat 87% of home in Iceland. Samoso, an Island in Denmark, is running on 100% renewable energy. Sonoma Mountain Village, California, aims to emit 0 carbon, produce 0 waste, use 0 ground water. The Village also now has the largest privately owned solar array in California. One of the local businesses, Coddling Steel Frames Solutions, produces no waste and runs on 100% solar power. We see that 100% renewable future is possible!

Dr. George Assaf (Director of the office and Representative of UNIDO to the UN and other International Organizations)

The issue of climate change and renewable energy is timely and important for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. They have been the hardest hit by energy and food prices. Developed economies are the biggest users of energy, but developing countries are rapidly catching up and there is acceleration in their demand for energy, which is coupled with their rising population levels. Industry, in general, is a major consumer of energy.

Energy is at the heart of all environmental issues today. LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS need to expand their access to reliable and modern energy sources to reduce poverty, and increase growth. Currently 1.5 billion have no access to electricity.

For SIDS, which are the most impacted by climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of great urgency. In the face of the continuous threat of king tides, hurricanes and cyclones, SIDS are under a serious time pressure to take action. For people in SIDS, climate change poses a very real threat of obliterating their habitat and unique cultures. All SIDS are rich in local wind and solar energy but transition costs are a major barrier.

The Istanbul Declaration and Program of Action emanating from the Fourth United Nations Conference on LDCs in May 2011, expressed deep concern that the ongoing impacts of commodity and energy are threatening the development gains that LDCs have made so far. With regards to climate change, the Istanbul Declaration calls for the necessary mobilization and provision of additional, adequate, and predictable financial resources to address the adaptation and mitigation needs of LDCs. It welcomes the decision to set up the Green Climate Fund.

At the Informal negotiations for Rio+20 Member States are striving to consolidate their positions on issues pertaining to the green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development. We need stronger political commitments and concrete actionable measures.

UNIDO believes that Rio+20 offers a unique opportunity for the launch of concrete initiatives. Initiatives such as the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative and UNIDO’s Green Industry Initiative demonstrate renewed commitment to concrete action to achieve tangible progress in the next two decades. Developing countries should be able to leapfrog conventional energy options and move directly to cleaner energy alternatives that will greatly enhance economic and social development.

The Secretary-General has recently launched his Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiatives. A High-Level Group on SE4All was set up in September last year to achieve three energy goals by 2030: 1) ensure universal access to modern energy services; 2) double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; 3) double the share of renewable energy in the total global energy mix. Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General of UNIDO, has been requested by the Secretary-General to co-chair this important group along with Mr. Charles Holliday, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank of America.

Energy efficiency means reducing the depletion of natural resources, and decreasing the use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. As a strategy to promote greater ownership of renewable energy technologies in developing countries and assist countries in addressing barriers to market-based dissemination of renewable energy, energy efficient technologies and services, UNIDO has established “technology transfer platforms” that provide direct support to developing countries.

UNIDO has also recently established, in Africa, the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), based in Cape Verde. It has a pivotal role in obtaining the necessary funding to get renewable projects off the ground and to encourage the creation of energy efficiency markets in the region, and supports national bodies in 15 ECOWAS countries to put in place the appropriate policies and strategies to improve access to clean energy, work to attract crucial private sector investment, and provide technical training

Ms. Elizabeth Press: Senior Program Officer, IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency)

IRENA works to promote the widespread and increased adoption and the sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy. We encourage the involvement of governments, public and private organizations, academics and members of the media. There have been rapid transitions in the fields of human endeavor and there have been ongoing changes in our consumption and energy use.

Over the years there have been increasing advances in technology puting sustainable energy within reach. Renewables have been important for governments everywhere. IRENA is aiming to become a global hub of knowledge where we provide roadmaps to renewable energy.

There are great opportunities in Africa and in Island States, where renewables can provide the least costly means for energy generation. There are some islands in Scandinavia that are a lighthouse, showing the possibilities of renewables. In addition to this other countries, like Nauru, have made a commitment to becoming fully renewable by 2015. IRENA is aimed at helping governments overcome barriers to the implementation of sustainable energy.

2012 is the year of Sustainable Energy for All and is being prominently addressed in all the UN’s activities. IRENA is actively helping in bringing universal access to modern energy sources, by 2030, especially for the 3 billion people without access to energy. We think this is possible as long as we have: 1. Political will, 2. the right legislative framework in place, and 3. the stimulation of the market which will come along with the first two, and will come from the private sector. It is evident that the world is changing and we must recognize that climate change, energy security, and poverty are all connected. We hope one day that renewable energy will be equitably spread around the world.

Question Period

Biomass energy was not brought up in the discussions, yet it is an important energy source in LDCs, especially in terms of accessibility. In answer to the question about biomass energy, it is another important source that is being promoted.

Lee Bloom, Royal Holdings, is a real estate developer. In the past 4 years they have been developing renewable energy businesses in Africa. They found that African countries, being rich in minerals, can use these resources for their renewable energy needs.

Partnerships are very important, and can be connected with loans from World Bank or other development banks. Capacity building is very important, as is accessing partners for investment.

If you exclude biomass energy, 8% of energy today is by renewables. There is a lot of emphasis on linking types of energy with productive uses of energy.

A representative from Aruba said that they will reach 50% renewable energy by next year.

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Closing Remarks

IRENA

Islands have a very small market and they don’t promote a lot of investment interest. There are economic and geographical similarities among all SIDS, therefore work can also be done in partnerships. There are three important areas: 1. research (costing, standards, strategies, road map for renewable energy for 2030) 2. knowledge management (how the product can be useful and how it can be applied, assessments, see how to assist governments) 3. policy and capacity building (how to do it, who can help). Today, there is a lot of potential in developing countries for renewable energy projects.

UNIDO

The most important issues are: how do we involve the private sector, and does it pay to invest in renewable energy. In terms of renewable energy it is very important to link countries advanced in this process with the ones less advanced in this process. In terms of LLDC we must increase awareness about how vital renewable energy is. UNIDO has many programs renewable energy programs including hydro energy. The key focus is on assisting in the development of an energy strategy that best uses your resources. It is fundamental to involve the private sector in conjunction with international assistance for maximum funding possibilities.

We have to realize that to invest, the project has to at least be as profitable as any other investment. The US Department of Energy says that energy efficiency pays. They calculated that most payback periods for small scale projects are between 1 and 5 years. In terms of the World Bank’s 455 renewable energy projects, 80% have recovered their capital in 13 months, and on average the internal rate of return on projects was 25%. Smaller scale projects are much more profitable while larger scale projects are not as profitable and require a lot more effort to make them work. Therefore there is tremendous scope for smaller scale projects.

Closing

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Roma Stibravy closed with a reference to Star Island, a resort being developed in the Bahamas as 100% renewable. As an example of what renewable energy means, just after a hurricane created a mass power outage in the Bahamas, Star Island was all lit up. The Island is powered by solar and wind. Not only in disasters, but also to protect the future of our planet 100% renewables by 2050 is a reasonable goal for all.