United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan today called for new approaches to energy use with a focus on greater efficiency, increased investment in renewable sources and new technologies.
“We need a revolution in energy efficiency,” he told the opening plenary of the three-day High-Level Segment of the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York. “Conventional power stations waste 65 per cent of the energy they generate. We must capture and use that excess heat, and make greater use of hybrid vehicles and other energy-efficient technologies.”
He also called for cutting the pollution generated by fossil fuels, for example through the use of clean coal, and pointed out that the high cost of oil imposes economic burdens on some poor countries while contributing to climate change.
The poor are particularly vulnerable to climate change and will need help from the global community to adapt to its impact, he added.
Meanwhile, 1.6 billion people live with no electricity at all and have to rely on wood, dung and agricultural wastes, which have made indoor air pollution one of the world’s top 10 causes of mortality or premature death, he said. Added to that is the immense opportunity cost of the many hours that people, mainly women, spend foraging for wood.
“We need new approaches. We need to scale up investment in mature renewables, such as wind, hydro and solar energy. And we need to intensify research and development into promising longer-term sources such as tidal energy, ocean thermal conversion, hydrogen and fuel cells.”
As developing countries seek to nearly double their electrical generating capacity so as to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, they should not be condemned by the weight of tradition, or their own poverty, to follow what predecessor countries did, especially when alternatives sources of energy are possible, Mr. Annan said.
All countries must be more rigorous in carrying out what they have agreed to do, he said, arguing that any measures to lessen climate change or adapt to it had to be integrated into national sustainable development strategies.
“In this great endeavour, there is work for everyone,” Mr. Annan said. “Governments must use their power to set the ground rules, lay out the standards, put the right incentives in place, and deploy their purchasing power to procure energy-efficient goods and services.”
He noted that global financial institutions controlling a total of some $4 trillion signed on last week at the New York Stock Exchange to a new set of principles for responsible investment, in which it is clearly spelled out that what is not sustainable is not responsible.
“Financial markets, banks, private business and industry, civil society and private citizens all have distinct roles to play,” Mr. Annan said.