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Electricity and energy needs of poor emerge as priority issue as UN session ends

Electricity and energy needs of poor emerge as priority issue as UN session ends

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development today in New York concluded a two-week review of ways to help the 1.6 billion people who presently lack access to electricity, including through the development of new technologies, market incentives and cooperation among developing countries.

“We have heard about the need to provide access to energy for some time now,” said the Chairman of the Committee, Georgian Finance Minister Aleksi Aleksishvili. “But at this meeting we heard about the ways we are going to meet these energy needs.”

Countries identified a number of actions to meet the needs of energy-starved communities, including the development of new, clean technologies, renewable technologies, innovative market and monetary mechanisms and increased South-South cooperation.

More than 80 ministers attended the session on the four closely linked issues of energy, climate change, air pollution and industrial development. During the meeting, countries identified progress, best practices, obstacles and areas where urgent action is needed.

The Commission will propose specific initiatives and policy proposals to address these issues at its 2007 session.

The meeting, taking place during a time of high oil prices and anxiety over energy security, brought renewed calls to accelerate energy access to the poor. Lesotho Minister of Natural Resources Mamphono Khaketla said his country was struggling to increase access to electricity from the current level of 11 per cent to 35 per cent by 2015 because of “unaffordable up-front investment costs and limited technological capacity to manufacture renewable energy devices.”

Some progress was reported in expanding energy access. United States Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky said that, through partnerships, 15.7 million people have been connected to modern energy services. Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardenne-Van der Hoeven said that progress was being made on a pledge to provide 10 million people with modern energy and had already delivered clean stoves to 4.5 million people and lighting to 1.5 million.

Progress was also reported in phasing out the sale of leaded gasoline throughout the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Countries acknowledged that the private sector is vital for addressing energy issues and climate change, and that public-private partnerships were essential.

While there was considerable concern about the price of oil, there was also recognition that there will be continued reliance on fossil fuels in the future and that market stability and predictability were necessary for ensuring investment in a clean energy supply.

Qatar Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Industry, Abdullah bid Hamad Al-Attiyah, who has been elected as Chair next year’s session, said, “the priorities of the oil and gas exporting developing countries centre on non-interrupted supply and assured energy product markets, with no use restrictions.”