Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/889
    3 May 2006

    Commission on Sustainable Development Focuses on Improving Access to Reliable, Affordable, Economically Sound Energy Services

    Worldwide, 2.4 Billion People Still Lack Access to Modern Energy Services

    NEW YORK, 2 May (UN Headquarters) -- With 2.4 billion people worldwide still lacking access to modern energy services, and one quarter of the world's population still living without electricity, the Commission on Sustainable Development today continued its fourteenth session with a focus on improving access to reliable, affordable and economically sound energy services.

    At its current session, the Commission is reviewing progress in meeting the goals and targets of Agenda 21 -- a comprehensive blueprint for action adopted by world leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit -- and the outcome of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in the area of energy, industrial development, air pollution and climate change.  (For details of the session, see Press Release ENV/DEV/887 .) 

    In the first of two thematic discussions, participants this morning focused on improving access to electricity, particularly in rural areas, examining the constraints and barriers faced in that regard, as well as lessons learned and best practices that might be replicable.  Among the issues raised were the costs associated with electrification in rural areas; improving access to safe, reliable and legal electricity service in slum areas; the particular burden borne by women in gaining access to energy sources; the economic advantages of investing in renewable energy sources; and the social and environmental impacts of energy use.

    In the afternoon, the focus turned to enhancing energy efficiency to address air pollution and atmospheric problems, combat climate change, and promote industrial development.  Among the barriers to energy efficiency were a lack of awareness of the issue and pertinent government policies.  In that regard, the first policy any country should implement, said one speaker, was energy efficiency standards and labels.  Participants also examined issues such as reducing energy loss during transmission and distribution, and the role of the consumer in achieving energy efficiency.

    It was generally acknowledged in the discussion this morning on the African region that those Governments and regional organizations had pursued a range of activities in recent years aimed at achieving sustainable development, but that socio-economic development in African countries was "critically impaired" by the limited production and consumption of modern energy.  Moreover, those economies depended largely on natural resource-based sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, which were particularly vulnerable to climate change.  And, increased drought, floods and other events added to food insecurity and other concerns for communities vulnerable to rain-fed agriculture.  Africa also lagged behind in industrial performance, and efforts to alleviate poverty through modern energy and electrification programmes had stumbled over chronic lack of public funding and insufficient interest in private investment in African markets.

    Focusing on the West Asian region, panellists drew attention to concerns of the region and the oil producing countries.  More than 40 per cent of those countries had no access to energy services or were highly under-serviced.  There was a pressing need in the region, therefore, to improve access to viable, socially acceptable and affordable energy services.  The oil and gas sector was the largest sector in the region.  Arab leaders had agreed on a broad framework to develop a more effective role for achieving the region-wide energy sector efficiency.  They had also issued a common call for developed countries to support developing countries in such areas as capacity-building and technology transfers, and to make funds available for those purposes.  Since the region had a good percentage of the world's energy resources, it was in a unique position to supply reliable energy globally.  That was an ongoing challenge.

    The regional discussion on Europe and North America centred on the security of supply, especially in light of the decline of indigenous oil and gas products and the rising prices.  Producing countries, first and foremost among them, the Russian Federation, were concerned about the security of demand, in order to be able to underwrite the necessary investment.  On economic sustainability, the region distinguished itself from most of the rest of the world by the fact that access to energy was nearly universal, but in most countries of the region, the challenge of affordability remained.  Other concerns were shared with countries outside the region, such as rising energy prices. Regarding energy sustainability, economic growth had been decoupled from energy growth decades ago, but energy efficiency gains had slackened, particularly throughout the 1990s. The environment was another concern, with climate change a major problem.

    The Pacific region was unique, the Commission heard during its discussion of the Asia and Pacific region.  Not only was it a tourism mecca, but it comprised several small island States scattered across a very large ocean, and often large spaces existed between numerous islands that made up a single State.  One challenge was how to reach out to the farthest island and how to mix modern thinking with traditional systems.  Another was how to achieve green growth without upsetting the environment or compromising culture or tradition, while enjoying modern amenities.  Because of their unique smallness, the small island countries relied on partnerships.  The Pacific Plan provided a regional delivery of services to member countries unable to provide for themselves.  Nationally, those countries adopted many different approaches, especially aimed at helping communities adapt to climate change effects.

    The Commission will continue with thematic and regional discussions tomorrow, 3 May, at 10 a.m.

    Thematic Discussion (AM)

    With some 2 billion people worldwide without electricity, the Commission on Sustainable Development this morning focused on improving access to electricity, particularly in rural areas, examining the constraints and barriers faced in that regard, as well as lessons learned and best practices that might be replicable.

    Among the issues raised in the discussion, entitled "Electrification, including rural electrification:  overcoming infrastructure, financing, policy and institutional barriers", were the costs associated with electrification in rural areas.  Extending the grid to poor areas, especially in rural areas, was expensive and poor people could not pay the full costs of service.  In that regard, Vijay Modi, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University, suggested that access to electricity be extended in rural areas to institutions, such as hospitals and schools, where a much larger population could benefit immediately.  That could then lead to the facilitation of household electrification. 

    With urban growth taking off in developing countries, and outpacing the capacity of Government's to provide services, another important issue was improving access to safe, reliable and legal electricity service in slum areas.  Connie Smyser, partner and owner of Smyser Associates -- a United States-based consulting firm specializing in sustainable energy development -- said the challenge for the slum consumer was that he was voiceless in a voiceless community and could not apply for legal electricity and could not pay for consumption once he had access.  There were half a billion people who had illegally supplied electricity in their homes.  That type of electricity was unsafe, unreliable and more costly than legally supplied electricity.

    Also emphasized was the fact that there were common financing and institutional barriers to providing clean and affordable energy resources, whether in urban or rural areas.  Among the key elements of successful models, as noted by one speaker, were engaging community and other stakeholders; enhancing financial viability; applying judicial subsidies; and enhancing the economic and social conditions of the community.

    Several speakers offered examples of initiatives undertaken to expand electrification, such as the village electrification plan launched in 2005 by India, under which the Government intended to electrify 125,000 villages by 2012, and Brazil's "Light for All" programme, aiming to promote access to and use of electricity for the 12 million Brazilians without access to electricity.

    Iceland, noted its representative, had made the transition to full electrification in a relatively short period by harnessing its own indigenous resources.  It was necessary to find ways to enable developing countries to harness their own indigenous energy resources in an affordable way, including hydropower and solar power.  What was considered "high tech" today might become common tomorrow, he added, based on the right incentives.

    Offering his country's example as a best practice for small island developing States and others, the representative of Barbados said that, with 100 per cent electrification, the challenge for his island nation was reducing electricity costs by shifting to alternative energy sources and increasing energy efficiency.  In that regard, he cited the success of the solar energy industry in Barbados.  Over 60 per cent of all new cement houses in the country installed solar water heaters; and one in three households had solar water heaters.  His Government had established South-South cooperation, including through joint ventures with other countries.

    Among the other issues that emerged in the discussion were the need to fight bribery and corruption, whether in the public sector or in privatization; the important role of public/private partnerships; the particular burden borne by women in gaining access to energy sources; the economic advantages of investing in renewable energy sources; and the social and environmental impacts of energy use.

    The other panellists in the discussion, which was chaired by Yvo de Boer ( Netherlands), Vice-Chairperson of the Commission, were Harish Hande, Managing Director of SELCO Solar Light in India, and Lee Yee Cheong, from the Energy Commission of Malaysia.

    Regional Discussion on Africa (AM)

    Chairing the African regional discussion this morning was Azanaw T. Abreha ( Ethiopia).  Josue Dione, Director of the Sustainable Development of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), made an opening statement.  Blessing Manale, Director, International Sustainable Development Cooperation, Ministry of the Environment, South Africa, presented the outcomes of the African regional implementation meeting, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in October 2005, under United Nations auspices.  The panellists were:  Niyangbo Philipe, African Union Commission; Jacques Moulot, ECA, United Nations Energy Africa; and Edward Clarence Smith, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

    It was broadly acknowledged this morning among the panellists that African Governments and regional and subregional organizations and other stakeholders had pursued a range of activities in recent years aimed at achieving sustainable development, but that socio-economic development in African countries was "critically impaired" by the limited production and consumption of modern energy and those nations' extreme vulnerability to climate change.

    Mr. Dione of the ECA pointed out that those economies depended largely on natural resource-based sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, which were particularly vulnerable to climate change.  And, climate change was expected to result in increased drought, floods and other events, adding to food insecurity, health problems and other concerns of African communities vulnerable to rain-fed agriculture.

    He also pointed out that, by all industry-related indicators, Africa continued to lag behind other developing regions in industrial performance.  Yet, the quest for industrial development itself posed several threats to the environment, requiring explicit attention on the road to sustainable development in Africa.  The main concerns related to air emissions, the use of non-renewable material and energy resources, as well as toxic substances, hazardous waste, non-recyclable products and precious biodiversity. 

    Africa generated only 3.1 per cent of the world's electricity, less than anywhere in the world, he noted.  Environmentally safe energy technologies should be promoted, as well as access to modern energy for the urban and rural poor in Africa.  Overall success in meeting the sustainable development objectives in African depended, largely, on good governance within each country and at the global level, and on transparency in international monetary systems and fulfilment by the international community of the commitments made at Rio, Monterrey and Johannesburg, he stressed.

    Saying that biomass fulfilled almost all the domestic energy needs in most African countries, Mr. Philipe of the African Union Commission said that, besides its effect on the environment, that compromised food security and slowed economic and social development.  The African continent, however, had an immense and diversified energy potential, but, unfortunately, that had not been used sufficiently.  Consequently, access to modern energy was low, especially in the rural environments.  Energy had a main role to play in eradicating poverty, and the African Union's role was to ensure a harmonization of policy and strategy, implementation and follow-up of regional and inter-continental programmes.

    The will of African States was there, he stressed.  Now, those countries must urgently develop and strengthen national strategies for energy supply by diversifying various energy sources, especially renewables, for which the energy ministers had undertaken the following measure, among others:  implementing and designing in African States a sectoral policy for energy development within the economic reforms under way, with a concentration on an integrated development approach; and emphasizing the importance of the electricity subsector.  Several principles had underscored their approach, including the development of the main rivers, such as the Nile, as a source of energy development.  Efforts were also under way to strengthen and harmonize legal and regulatory frameworks, he said.

    Mr. Moulot of ECA said that efforts to alleviate poverty through modern energy and electrification programmes had stumbled over chronic lack of public funding and little interest in private investors in African markets.  That had been due, in part, to resistance to uncertain environmental conditions and national and legal regulatory frameworks.  He called for a scaling up of efforts and more ambitious programmes, especially in rural areas, as well as changed patterns of production and consumption.  Initiatives had lacked strong political support from governments.  Despite the fact that cleaner technologies and fuel had a role to play in solving problems of energy efficiency and decentralization, most African actors did not view those as priorities.  A lot more could be done to support the energy agenda of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and more support could be provided to the African Energy Commission, he said.

    Stressing that there could be no long-termed sustainable poverty alleviation without industrial development, Mr. Smith of UNIDO said that Africa lagged behind other regions in its industrial performance.  High-technology exports, which were the engine nowadays for economic growth, accounted for only four per cent of Africa's exports compared to 23 per cent for all developing countries and 32 per cent for East Asia.  The economic lag at the moment was not very sustainable.  Because industrialization in Africa was so weak, its contribution to employment in sub-Saharan Africa was very small, and even in South Africa, that was only 3.5 per cent.  Industrialization in African did not seriously burden the environment compared to other activities, but that was only because of the low level of industrialization. 

    In the interactive discussion that followed, the view was expressed that Africa was presently experiencing an "energy crisis" due to increasing oil prices.  That situation must make African countries understand that they must look for options other than oil and natural gas.  Some speakers had invited bilateral or multilateral agencies' support, but many policy strategies were not really highlighting the importance of energy for development, so the donors did not really understand that.  Hopefully, one delegate stressed, the meeting would be an "eye opener" about the energy crisis in Africa. 

    The importance of considering the socio-economic context of individual countries was also emphasized, as was the question of external debt, which another delegation believed had not received the necessary attention.  The unique challenges countries faced should be taken into account, such as reconstruction and development, and other internal factors, which might be hampering efforts to achieve poverty reduction and sustainable development.

    Turning to inputs from some of the major groups, a representative from the women's groups said that a solution to accessibility to modern energy should take into consideration end-use and look at the situation through women's eyes.  Specifically, actions that sought to strengthen capacity of energy planners and developers should use gender mainstreaming as a key tool.  Women must be involved in the selection, promotion and use of more user-friendly energy resources.

    Regional Discussion on West Asia (AM)

    Javad Amin-Mansour ( Iran) chaired this discussion.  Anhar Hegazi, Director of the Sustainable Development Division of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), presented the outcome of the regional implementation meeting in West Asia and summarized its findings.

    The panellists were:  Fouad Shaker, Secretary-General of the Union of Arab Banks; Aysar Tayeb, Advisor to the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia; Emad Adly, Chairman of the Arab Network for Environment and Development; Sayed Emam, General Manager for Regional and International Cooperation of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy of Egypt; and Jassem Bishara, Director-General of Environment Public Authority of Kuwait. 

    Mr. Tayeb opened the discussion by shedding light on some Arab initiatives and concerns of the region and oil-producing countries.  Poverty alleviation and sustainable energy patterns were among the most central goals for sustaining development.  According to the 2004 UNEP report, Arab countries were ranked from medium to low and very low in terms of development.  More than 40 per cent of those countries had no access to energy services or were highly under-serviced.  There was a pressing need in the region, therefore, to improve access to viable, socially acceptable and affordable energy services.  The oil and gas sector was the largest sector in the region.  Saudi Arabia had revised its energy policies in many ways to increase energy access and enhance investment in oil and gas exploration, by using clean technologies and adopting measures for reducing environmental impacts.  In addition, a partnership on energy for sustainable development had been established with concerned regional organizations.

    He noted that several initiatives had emerged among Arab leaders and ministers of energy and the environment, which had met time and again.  They had agreed on a broad framework and expressed their political will to develop a more effective role for achieving the region-wide energy sector efficiency.  Several agreements had been reached, and a common call had been issued for developed countries to support developing countries in such areas as capacity-building and technology transfers, and to make funds available for those purposes.  Since the region had a good percentage of the world's energy resources, it was in a unique position to supply reliable energy globally.  That was an ongoing challenge.

    Beyond the region, he said, the world faced a great challenge in meeting the growing energy demand.  Whether natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, biomass or other renewable energies, providing the world's rapidly growing thirst for energy for a better way of life was a daunting task.  No country in the world could achieve sustainable development independently, and energy was the key driver for economic development and prosperity.  Outlooks forecast a 50 per cent increase or more for energy demand over the next 50 years.  All forecasts agreed that energy from fossil fuel would continue to dominate in the coming decades.  With that fact, the focus on clean fossil fuel technologies was a must.

    Despite several initiatives undertaken by the Arab countries for promoting renewable energy and the fact that that region was natural resource rich, asserted Mr. Emam, renewable energy application in 2003 had accounted for the equivalent of only 1 million tons of oil, or 1 per cent of the total oil production in the region.  Limited progress had been achieved in promoting renewable technologies in the region, such as the use of solar water heaters.  But, targets had been set by some in the region.  Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, for example, had large-scale wind farms in operation, and others in the region had taken steps to combine solar, thermal and other energy sources.  The main constraints facing renewable development in the region was a lack of policy support, limited awareness and limited investment.  Yet, renewable energy could be instrumental in increasing energy access for the urban and rural poor.

    Mr. Shaker focused his remarks on Arab banking and satisfying financial needs, including through private sector contributions.  There were constraints, however, owing to the political conditions in the region, the small size of the banks, and the lack of legislation and organization.

    Mr. Adly, who represented a non-governmental organization network of 200 organizations active in the Arab region since 1990, said that clean, low-cost technologies were being used only on a very small scale.  When it came to air pollution, legislation was weak and not enforced.  Non-governmental organizations had best practices to share in the area of solar energies, biomass, energy efficiency.  Those could show that it was possible to make things happen, such as vehicle emissions control, recycling, including of agricultural waste, and so forth.  The role of the small grants programme in the region had been crucial.  Local residents were eager to improve their living conditions by conserving resources for future generations, and they were eager to learn.  Whenever civil society organizations were enabled and empowered, they delivered positively by serving their environments.

    Delegations in the discussion that followed stressed the need for sustained collaboration across all levels and the development of innovative policies and technologies and financing solutions.  Egypt's representative announced that it would host the third regional renewable energy conference for Africa from 10 to 12 June.

    Delegations acknowledged that the region had not done much in terms of renewable energies, but with the surge in oil prices, it was suggested that some extra benefits could be reaped from investing in large solar power plants and wind power plants.  Partnerships and institutional capacity-building was also stressed, as well as technical support.  Case studies could also be useful in the matrix.  Non-oil producing Arab countries, as well as oil producing Arab countries wanted to be able to close the gap between available funds and energy needs.  It was suggested that Asian development banks and those from other regions, including in Europe, had a lot of experience funding energy for sustainable development, which was worth examining. 

    A representative from business and industry emphasized that the provision of adequate supplies of affordable energy was fundamental to economic growth and development.  Business and industry could best make a contribution to meeting energy demands within proper enabling framework conditions, which included, among other things, uniformly enforced regulatory systems.

    Thematic Discussion (PM)

    In the afternoon, the Commission held a thematic discussion dedicated to "enhancing energy efficiency to address air pollution and atmospheric problems, combat climate change, and promote industrial development".  Participants addressed, among other things, the barriers to energy efficiency, facilitating improved transmission of electricity, the key role of consumers in achieving energy efficiency, and national initiatives for energy efficiency.

    The barriers to energy efficiency, stated Alfred Ofosu Ahenkorah, Executive Director of the Energy Foundation of Ghana, included a lack of awareness of energy efficiency and a lack of awareness of the technologies involved.  There was also an absence of clear-cut government policies regarding energy efficiency and a lack of energy efficiency "champions" to push issues forward.

    He added that the key to reducing energy loss during transmission and distribution was technology.  The use of old technologies and equipment hindered efficiency.  Technological changes and innovation were, therefore, crucial.  When there was a waste of energy, the first loser was the consumer, since the consumer tended to pay more for the little he/she used.

    The best way to overcome barriers and achieve energy efficiency was through policy, not projects, stated Stephen Wiel, President of the Board of the Collaborative Labelling and Standards Programme (CLASP).  The first policy any country should implement was energy efficiency standards and labels.  Research on the United States residential sector showed that, with the standards already implemented, the United States would, by 2020, reduce energy consumption in the residential sector by 8 per cent and reduce its carbon emissions from the residential sector by about the same amount.

    Zhou Dadi, Director General of the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, emphasized the importance of prioritizing energy conservation and efficiency, as well as establishing an assessment system for energy efficiency.  The most important indicators for energy efficiency should take into account per capita consumption.  The real challenge for countries was to decrease per capita energy consumption through improvements in energy efficiency.

    Several speakers highlighted national efforts aimed at energy efficiency.  Following the oil price shocks of the 1970s, stated one speaker, many countries introduced energy efficiency standards.  The members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had introduced energy efficiency standards for each building component, such as walls, doors and air conditioning units.  Brazil had enacted two laws in the area.  The first established minimum energy performance standards for equipment and buildings, and the other stated that utilities must apply 0.25 per cent of their revenues for energy efficiency programmes in their community.

    In an effort to promote energy efficiency, Nigeria had adopted an energy policy which provided for a holistic and integrated strategy for conserving energy and for providing affordable and reliable energy.  It had promoted public awareness on energy efficiency and conservation across all sectors and among the general public.  Among other things, the Government was providing incentives for the promotion of energy efficiency, improving mass transportation, encouraging the production and use of more energy efficient cooking stoves, and examining ways to make "renewables" more affordable for the public.

    Energy efficiency was a key operational programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the financial mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The Facility's projects benefited more than 50 developing countries and countries in transition.  It was targeting barriers in the areas of information and raising awareness, technology barriers, the capacity to develop business models and financing.

    Undoubtedly, speakers agreed, energy was required for development and growth.  In growing economies, where the demand for energy was likely to increase, energy efficiency was critical, as was public understanding of the need to reduce energy use.

    Noting that a large amount of energy was used by professionals, at the workplace, a representative of trade unions said significant energy savings could be made through joint, concerted efforts of workers and managers.  Governments could make a significant contribution and remove a number of obstacles to energy efficiency by promoting the International Labour Organization's concept of decent work, leading to an atmosphere of trust for carrying out energy efficiency efforts.

    Chaired by Commission Vice-Chairperson Azanaw T. Abreha ( Ethiopia), the discussion also heard a presentation from Mark D. Levine, Director, Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

    Regional Discussion on Europe and North America (PM)

    The first part of the afternoon regional discussion was chaired by Yvo de Boer ( Netherlands).  Eliot Morley, Minister for the Environment of the United Kingdom, presented the outcome of the European regional implementation meeting.

    The panellists in the discussion were:  Viktor Baranchuk, Deputy Minister of Industrial Policy of Ukraine; Martin Williams, Head of the Air and Environmental Quality Division, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom; Christophe Fueg, Special Representative of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy; and Kaj Barlund, Director, Environment and Human Settlements Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

    Mr. Fueg discussed the three pillars of energy sustainability:  energy security; economic sustainability; and environmental sustainability.  Energy security was a common concern throughout the region, albeit with a different slant, depending on the different subregion, of which there were two.  The European Union countries and the United States were concerned about the security of supply, especially in light of the decline of indigenous oil and gas products and the rising prices.  Producing countries, first and foremost among them, the Russian Federation, were concerned about the security of demand, in order to be able to underwrite the necessary investment.  Importing countries might have another view of what was needed to foster investment in producing countries, and a shared concern among all countries was transit.

    On economic sustainability, he said that the region distinguished itself from most of the rest of the world by the fact that access to energy was nearly universal, but in most countries of the region, the challenge of affordability remained.  Other concerns were shared with countries outside the region, such as rising energy prices, both pre- and post-tax, and the growing impact on economic growth, as well as the competitiveness of industries in various countries.  Investment issues, and the need to replace ageing capacity, particularly in the electricity sector, were also preoccupying.  Those issues needed to be supported by long-term planning and investment.

    Regarding energy sustainability, economic growth had been decoupled from energy growth decades ago, but energy efficiency gains had slackened, particularly throughout the 1990s, but in transit economies there was still enormous potential for energy efficiency gains.  The third aspect concerned the environment.  Climate change was a major problem, and most countries of the region had adopted the Kyoto Protocol.  The large portion of the region had, thus, become a ground for implementation of flexible mechanisms, joint implementation and emissions trading, and the potential existed for becoming a nucleus for a wider platform for market-based climate change abatement.  There was significant potential for improvement in that regard in the transitional economies.

    Those were the challenges, he said.  The first remedy, among several, was energy efficiency.  He had already seen that the transit economies had a huge potential for improvement in that regard.  In the past year, in the European Union and North America, several measures and programmes had been adopted to rekindle slackened efforts.  Those ranged from awareness-raising to improved housing standards and mandatory energy performance standards, among others.

    Mr. Baranchuk discussed industrial development and linkages to sustainable development, including challenges for countries with economies in transition.  In Ukraine, the lessons learned and best practices had shown Ukraine to be a long time "major industrial locomotive".  Now, it was working to ensure that it was on a sustainable path, for which it placed a high premium on energy research.  The surge in oil and gas prices had emphasized the need for energy source diversification.  As energy prices grew, so did the challenge.  That also, however, provided an opportunity to narrow the technological gap.  Out-of-date technology must be replaced with modern, energy-saving equipment, which would decrease energy inputs and save production time.  His country was seeking to bring its standards in line with the rest of Europe with modern innovations in product development.

    He said that the 20-year commemoration last week of the Chernobyl catastrophe had illustrated the importance of the safe use of technology, including nuclear technology, and of providing the public with reliable and transparent information.

    Addressing the air pollution/atmosphere-climate change nexus, Mr. Williams highlighted the importance of the long-range transboundary air pollution convention.  The Convention had 50 participants, and its eight protocols were all in force.  The Convention had been innovative many years ago when it was signed in 1979, bringing together science and policy-making.  It had been successful in reducing emissions in the region and improving ecosystem management, but significant future challenges remained and new problems had emerged.  Those included the introduction of nitrogen in the environment.

    The regional aspect of those pollutants was important, as was the increasing emergence and scientific consensus surrounding inter-continental transport of air pollutants, he said.  Those pollutants were transportable across continents and across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and, thus, the issue was increasingly a hemispheric and global issue.  A task force had been set up to address the issue.  In fact, a coordinated approach to dealing with air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions could result in major savings.  The scientific solutions were not simple.  Nor would the policy solutions be easy.

    In the ensuing discussion, Jordan's representative drew attention to the country's cleaner production programme.  With Jordan's implementation of its environmental legislation, more and more businesses were seeking the programme's support.  However, that had not received the support of either the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) or the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which had left it "short-ended".  More support, including from those agencies' regional offices, was very much needed.

    Azerbaijan's speaker raised the issue of corporate and social responsibility when it came to, not only environmental safety, but combating and preventing environmental degradation.

    Turkey's representative stressed that security of energy supply was critical to the region and, while Turkey formed a natural energy bridge with the Caspian Sea-rich countries and the rest of the world, the Turkish straits were not a viable route for the transport of hydrocarbon energy resources.  A collision and consequent explosion would not only endanger the lives of thousands of people, but might also cause irreversible damage to the environment and damage oil flows to the world markets.  So, the solution lay in finding alternatives.  Turkey was trying to strengthen its role as an energy hub in the region, and thereby contribute substantially to global energy supplies.

    Countries, even in the European region, experienced quite different challenges, Austria's speaker said on behalf of the European Union.  The region still faced serious difficulties, including different access to energy services.  Innovative financing and action to reinforce research were urgent.  An integrated approach was required to combat air pollution.  Efforts should build on those areas where some progress had already been made, such as the Convention on long-range transboundary air pollution.  On climate change, a joint global effort was required to ensure that the global mean surface temperature did not increase more than two degrees centigrade.

    Regional Discussion on Asia and Pacific (PM)

    Liana Bratasida, Assistant Minister of Environment of Indonesia. presented the outcome of the Asia and Pacific regional implementation meeting.

    The panellists were:  Xinhuai Wang, Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission of China; Padma Lal, Pacific Islands Forum, Fiji; Susumu Okamoto ( Thailand); Jyoti Parikh, Executive Director of Integrated Research and Action for Development in India; and Rae Kwon Chung, Director for the Department of Sustainable Development, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

    Mr. Wang said the region had experienced the highest economic growth rate in the world.  For China, the aim had been to perform a global duty while meeting national need.  In 1994, his country had formulated a national agenda in line with Agenda 21.  In 2003, it had adopted an action programme on sustainable development, accompanied by concrete plans to implement sustainable development strategies.  A comprehensive legal system formed the backdrop for the development agenda and ensured protection of the environment and energy resources.  In the final 20 years of the last century, China quadrupled its gross domestic product (GDP) on the basis of doubling its energy production.  In recent years, it greatly increased investment in poverty alleviation and environmental preservation, making notable gains in reducing air pollution and improving solid waste management.

    The Pacific region was unique, Ms. Lal said.  Not only was it a tourism mecca, but it comprised several small island States scattered across a very large ocean, and often large spaces existed between numerous islands that made up a single State.  One challenge was how to reach out to the farthest island and how to mix modern thinking with traditional systems.  Another was how to achieve green growth without upsetting the environment or compromising culture or tradition, while enjoying modern amenities.  Because of their size, the small island countries relied on partnerships.  The Pacific Plan provided a regional delivery of services to member countries unable to provide for themselves.  Nationally, those countries adopted many different approaches, especially aimed at helping communities adapt to climate change effects.

    Much of the discussion that followed centred on the rise in oil prices.  Saudi Arabia's delegate stressed the need to support oil alternatives, although he acknowledged that that realizing that aim might take a long time.  Nevertheless, he said it was important to sit down together and discuss that important issue.

    Fiji's speaker said the Pacific region was experiencing hardship as a result of the escalating fuel prices.  The region, therefore, was trying to reduce the impact on development programmes, but reliable and cost-effective petroleum products were essential for Fiji and other Pacific countries.  The price of oil per barrel would be $100 in the not-too-distant future, so the situation would have to be reassessed.  Given such spikes in prices, there was an imperative to examine variable energy sources.  In addition, the impact of spills and emissions on the environment could be significant, particularly for fragile marine ecosystems.  Thus, proper handling, storage and transport of petroleum products were crucial.

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