Statement to World Leaders on Sustainable Development, by Robert Priddle, Executive Director of the IEA, at the World Summit in Johannesburg

(Johannesburg) — 30 August 2002

Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Energy is one of many themes at this Summit.

This is greatly to be welcomed.

For there can be no sustainable economic development without a secure, affordable supply of energy, in a form which avoids unacceptable environmental damage.

The energy community of the countries of the OECD, meeting in the International Energy Agency, has given its interpretation of a sustainable energy future and sign-posted the path in the document " Towards Solutions: Sustainable Development in the Energy Sector".

Those solutions involve action on energy security and on energy efficiency. They require support for renewable energy, and action to make markets work better. They demand incentives to stimulate technology research, development and deployment. Transportation must be made sustainable. And the poor must be given access to energy services in modern, efficient forms. All this must be done in ways which safeguard the environment, health and safety.

This is a tall order. It can be accomplished only through integrated planning, reconciling priorities. There are no easy solutions. Single issue advocates simply threaten other essential components of the solution. That would leave us without a sustainable future.

Take one example. Renewable energy promises many benefits. It has almost universal support here. All IEA countries intervene to enhance the market share of renewables. But renewables alone do not offer us a path to a sustainable future within our present span of vision. Economic development and poverty eradication depend on secure, affordable energy supplies. These supplies will come in many forms. Fossil fuels, though environmentally-challenged, can meet the criteria of security and affordability. Technology, driven by the right incentives, offers possible answers to the environmental problems - clean coal technology, and technologies to safely capture and store carbon. The right mix of fuels must be determined by economic criteria, taking full account of costs and benefits not yet fully reflected in market prices.

Access to energy services is so clearly an essential part of alleviating poverty and promoting economic and social welfare that I want to close by giving some precision to the challenge in this respect.

New analysis by the International Energy Agency, published here in Johannesburg, shows that 1.6 billion people today have no access to electricity. 2.4 billion rely on primitive biomass for cooking and heating, with concomitant health damage (mostly to women and children) and environmental degradation. What is more shocking is that, in the absence of radical new policies, 1.4 billion people will still have no access to electricity in 30 years time; and the number reliant on primitive biomass for cooking and heating will actually rise, to 2.6 billion.

To tackle these challenges demands precision and realism. Three quarters of those with no electricity today live in rural communities. But 95% of the population growth in developing countries in the next 30 years will be urban. Distributed generation offers part of the answer for the rural poor. Centralised power generation, demanding different technical solutions, is needed for the urban poor.

This Summit can make all the difference to these issues - by signalling new political priorities and making practical, cost effective commitments to change. The demand for financial resources to finance solutions is huge - $2,100 billion for power generation in developing countries alone in the next 30 years, and that to do little more than keep pace with population growth, leaving far too many still without electricity. Political targets do have their value and their place. But policies to meet targets have costs -- excessive costs if the targets are ill-judged. Such costs reduce the resources available for wider and faster deployment of modern energy systems. There is no room to waste resources. The challenges are too great, within the energy system and beyond it, to health, water, sanitation and education.

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