Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/890
    4 May 2006

    Sustainable Development Commission Examines Renewable Energy Sources, New Technologies for Promoting Efficiency

    NEW YORK, 3 May (UN Headquarters) -- With world attention focused on ever-increasing demands for energy combined with the resultant stresses on the environment and the latest surge in oil prices, the Commission on Sustainable Development today continued in parallel meetings to examine renewable energy sources and technologies to promote energy efficiency and reduce the impact on the environment.

    In one discussion today, participants focused on the challenges of meeting the growing needs for energy services through increased use of renewable energy and greater reliance on advanced energy technologies.  It was noted that Africa was paying more for oil and gas than it was getting in official development assistance.  And, it was generally agreed that renewable energy solutions could help eradicate global poverty, create new jobs, ensure the security of energy supplies and combat global warming, especially in light of increasing oil prices and future energy demand.  However, it was acknowledged that, while renewable resources were relatively cheap and safe, they were in heavy competition with fossil and nuclear solutions.  A challenge then was to make renewable technology cheaper and more competitive.

    A discussion dedicated to facilitating deployment of energy efficient technologies in transportation heard that human power, including the use of bicycles, was the most efficient mode of transport.  The next most energy-efficient technologies for transport were those that carried large numbers of people, namely buses, except when they were trapped in congestion by private motor vehicles, the most energy-inefficient technology.  Giving buses the right of way, therefore, was the most important measure countries could take in that regard.  Mayors should be encouraged to bring passengers back to public transportation, and cities should be designed to encourage people to walk and cycle short distances.  Mayors and cities could encourage mass transit use by such steps as "congestion charging", which was under way in Singapore and elsewhere.

    Mauritius' speaker drew attention to the massive import of United States and Japanese motor vehicles onto the island.  From 2002 to 2005, that number of vehicles had increased by 4 per cent, and emissions from vehicles constituted the bulk of pollutants in the atmosphere.  Air pollution in Mauritius also came from the textile sectors and outdated power generation plants.  Motor vehicles were the only means of transport.  Several measures had been introduced to curb air pollution, such as the introduction of standards for ambient air and vehicle emissions, but it was difficult to enforce those standards, owing to a lack of capacity.  Catalytic converters for new vehicles were being employed, and the benzene level had been capped at 5 per cent.  Unleaded petrol had been introduced in 2002, and air monitoring had confirmed lower levels of lead in the air.

    In keeping with its precedent-setting practice of convening multi-stakeholder dialogues, the Commission heard from representatives of major groups today.  Among them, the speaker from the Indigenous Persons Group said there was a growing body of Western scientific evidence now that confirmed what the indigenous people had long known -- that life on earth was in danger.  Global warming and climate change was linked to atmospheric pollution, industrialization and unsustainable practices.  And, the forecasts were worsening.  Climate change significantly threatened the world's communities.  Solutions to the problem must emphasize real verifiable reductions in fossil fuel emissions.  Indigenous peoples could make significant contributions towards policy development and implementation of solutions to climate change problems.  They might be vulnerable to climate change impacts, but they had survived for thousands of years, and they could give support as life-energy sustainers now when it was needed most, he said.

    Wrapping up the regional debates begun yesterday, a representative from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said the region was very committed to addressing environmental problems, particularly those linked with economic and social concerns.  The region had been unable to detach its energy demand from its economic growth, and few countries in Latin America had been able to have good practices over time, so questions remained about whether those practices would change between now and 2030.  Air and atmospheric pollutants had had adverse health effects in the region, resulting in many lost work days.  The greater responsibility for the pollution lay with growth associated with transportation and not with industry.  In terms of climate change, some progress had been made by some countries, but greater impetus was needed by the Governmental authorities.

    The Commission will continue with thematic discussions Thursday, 4 May, at 10 a.m.

    Thematic Discussion (AM)

    Recalling the commitment undertaken at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development to significantly increase the global share of renewable energy sources in the total energy supply, participants in the Commission on Sustainable Development this morning focused on meeting growing needs for energy services through increased use of renewable energy, and greater reliance on advanced energy technologies.

    Renewable energy solutions could help eradicate global poverty, create new jobs, ensure the security of energy supply and combat global warming, thereby contributing to global justice, security and peace, stated Juergen Trittin, member of the German Bundestag and leading proponent of renewable energy technology.  Taking stock of the current situation, he noted that Africa was paying more for oil and gas than it was getting in official development assistance.  Climate change was a growing hurdle, causing $50 billion in damages in 2005.  While renewable resources were relatively cheap and safe, they were in heavy competition with fossil and nuclear solutions.

    However, he was convinced that fossil and nuclear solutions could not help meet the target of providing energy for everyone.  The map of where new resources of oil and gas were found was one of war, failing States and corruption.  Also, fossil fuels increased global warming.  Likewise, while nuclear energy might be an alternative, the risks associated with it were high, not to mention new risks such as terrorism and proliferation.  Renewable technology was a feasible solution, but the challenge was to make it cheaper and competitive.  That, he believed, was the responsibility of the industrialized countries.

    Citing a lack of information as one of the major barriers in the spread of renewable technologies, Suani Teixeira Coelho, Deputy Secretary for the State Secretariat for the Environment of Sao Paulo State, Brazil, stressed the need for South-South cooperation.  Many countries did not have information on existing technology in other countries.  There were examples of existing renewable technology that were competitive with traditional energy sources, such as Brazil's use of ethanol.  All gasoline in Brazil was blended with 25 per cent ethanol, and there were vehicles which ran on 100 per cent ethanol.  Brazil now had more than 2 million vehicles running with that technology.

    Hiroshi Komiyama, President of Tokyo University, felt the biggest barrier for the use of alternative energy sources was the lack of commitment and imagination to change.  With the increasing price of crude oil, alternative energy sources would become competitive.  Also, if regulations were installed to limit the use of fossil fuels, there would be no choice but to use alternative energy sources, including biomass.

    One speaker called for more balance in the Commission's discussion on energy, since fossil fuels would fuel 80 per cent of future energy needs.  The production of biomass, for example, was an energy intensive process.  In addition to renewable sources of energy, discussions should also focus on how to make fossil fuels more environmentally friendly.  To that, another speaker noted that fossil fuels were the dominant energy source, but they were limited.  Therefore, it was important to address security of energy supply for future needs.  In meeting future energy demands, stated another speaker, there was no "silver bullet".  Countries must make do with a mix of technologies, used in such a way as to maximize efficiency.

    While some argued that the costs associated with developing and using renewable energy technology were prohibitive for poor countries, one speaker noted that many renewable energy sources were particularly promising for developing countries, especially when they used indigenous materials and labour and did not require importation of expensive equipment.  Developing countries needed improved access to clean and efficient technologies and energy sources, a key factor to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially poverty reduction.

    Several participants wondered why renewable energy had not made greater inroads in the energy balance of small island developing States.  While most small island developing States had a lot of renewable energy sources, they needed to be further developed.  For example, biomass was among the predominant sources of energy for cooking in those States.  One of the major constraints was the fact that most small island developing States did not have sufficient resources to cover the up-front costs of renewable energy projects.  It was critical to move away from fossil-based energy to renewable sources, particularly since small island developing States were very vulnerable to increasing oil prices.

    Enabling the further development of renewable technology would require, among other things, an "energy efficiency revolution", in which consumers would play a critical role, noted one speaker.  In some countries, there was a misconception that renewable energy was solely for the rural poor.  Renewable energy technology, it was agreed, allowed for win-win solutions by contributing to environmentally sound economic growth.

    Also making presentations this morning were Daniel Theuri, Senior Programme Manager with the international development organization Practical Action, and Yona Siderer, representing the Ben-Gurion Solar Research Center, Israel.

    Regional Discussion -- Latin American and Caribbean (AM)

    Chairing the first part of the discussion this morning was Adrian Fernandez (Mexico), who also presented the outcome of the regional implementation meeting held in Santiago, Chile, in January.

    The panellists were:  Marianne Schaper, Senior Officer, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Leida Mercado, Regional Adviser of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Sergio Sanchez, Regional Officer of the World Bank.

    Mrs. Schaper said that ECLAC was very committed to addressing environmental problems, particularly those linked with economic and social concerns.  While the latter were manifested physically in the form of environmental problems, such as pollution and climate change, the solutions were clearly of an economic nature, like market incentives, greater efficiency, and technology transfers.  The solutions also lay in the social realm, such as changing consumer patterns, reducing poverty, and so forth.  Thus, ECLAC was seeking to link the environmental impact with social and economic problems and solutions.  It was undertaking studies and analyses and organizing seminars and experts' meetings to tackle those subjects.  It was also cooperating closely with the UNDP and the World Bank, and other international organizations.

    Regarding the four topics under discussion, she said that the region continued to depend greatly on fossil fuels.  It had been unable to detach its energy demand from its economic growth, and few countries in Latin America had been able to have good practices over time, so questions remained about whether those practices would change between now and 2030.  As for industrial development, much progress had been made by industry in terms of better environmental practices and cleaner production; however, small- and medium-sized enterprises had not been able to adapt much.  In Mexico, Argentina and Chile, that sector had not taken advantage of available instruments because the Governments had not been sufficiently involved.  Air and atmospheric pollutants had had adverse health effects in the region, owing to many work days lost.  The greater responsibility for the pollution lay with growth associated with transportation, however, and not with industry.  In terms of climate change, some progress had been made by some countries, but greater impetus was needed by the Governmental authorities.

    Mrs. Mercado said that the UNDP dealt with the four subjects under discussion, both through the country and private levels.  The UNDP emphasized the close relationship between providing sustainable energy, climate change and air pollution, and it was working to facilitate sustainable energy services, with a view to reducing the great inequality in the Latin American and Caribbean region.  While the percentage of the population with no access to energy utilities was "slight" compared to other regions, those people were generally the poorest and most marginalized.  Providing them with energy services would help reduce the gap.  It was important to have a commitment at the Government and institutional level, as well as at local and national levels, and to identify sources of financing for that purpose.  Also important was to provide training at local levels to allow communities to tackle their energy problems through a gender-balanced approach.  A good example of that type of intervention was the "Light for All" programme, currently under way in Brazil.

    She said that energy security was also of great interest to the UNDP.  Many countries in the region faced important obstacles to being able to provide their populations with secure and affordable energy.  A regional project for energy efficiency was being carried out in seven countries in Central America in small- and medium-sized industries, and the UNDP was working with the tourist sector as well.  The relationship between the energy and climate sector was also clear, and the Programme had a portfolio of projects being implemented in the region, for which it had earmarked tens of millions of dollars.  Those projects focused on identifying the barriers between promoting renewable and efficient energy and lowering the cost.  Also of great importance was the relationship between climate change and adapting to climate change.  There, the Programme saw how natural disasters were greatly affecting the region.  In that regard, efforts were being made to help the region adapt to climate change, such as in Ecuador and Uruguay.

    Mr. Sanchez said he was primarily concerned with air quality and climate change.  By the end of the 1980s in Mexico City, a series of circumstances had led to efforts to improve the air quality.  Among those was a growing social demand owing to the high level of air pollution.  Efforts were combined at the local, national and international levels, and a clean air policy had been launched in Washington, D.C.  The mission for clean air for the countries of Latin America was improving the quality of life for the people of the region.  What began as an effort to assist the seven largest cities of Latin America had now expanded to more than 150 cities with more than 350,000 inhabitants.  Many of those Latin American cities were facing problems associated with urban transport, energy use, urban planning, development, soil use, and so forth.

    He said that the initiative was seeking to diversify its membership, not only concentrated on environmental organizations, but involving all stakeholders, including the transportation and urban sectors.  He wanted to ensure the greater involvement of local and provincial authorities, and of federal Governments.  The aim was to catalyse projects, facilitate implementation of policies and focus investments.  Latin American cities were the most highly urbanized in the world.  In 1950, 42 per cent of the population was living in urban areas.  By 1990, it was 72 per cent, and by 2000, it was 75 per cent.  That trend was continuing, and by 2030, about 89 per cent of the Latin American population would be living in cities.  That should be motivation enough to solve the problems of air quality, climate change, energy efficiency, and so forth, with the urgency they deserved.

    Among the speakers in the ensuing discussion, Brazil's representative pointed out that his country was using ethanol for car fuel, and today, 2 million vehicles were using only ethanol in a hybrid system.  This year, 76 per cent of the vehicles coming on the market in Brazil would be hybrid, using ethanol gas.  The use of gasoline had decreased to 34 per cent.  In that way, Brazil had been able to reduce energy pollution, and to use its energy for other purposes.

    Concerning its Light for All programme, in association with the UNDP, in the past two years, some 2.8 million people had benefited from that initiative.  There were still 12 million people in Brazil without electricity, primarily in the rural areas, but the goal of the Light for All programme in the next two years was to cover 100 per cent of those in need.  Among its other good practices was the use of bio-diesel fuel, he noted.

    Argentina's representative said his country was working intensively on renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change.  It had so far been unable to "decouple" economic growth from energy inefficiency, but it was working hard on renewable energy, basically in the areas of wind energy and the development of alternative fuels.  In the next few years, Argentina would need to invest between $150 million and $250 million annually to achieve the installation of the necessary megawatts to achieve its goals.

    Colombia was developing various energy sources, such as natural gas and coal, its representative said.  It also had great hydroelectric potential.  All of that had allowed it to export its products to other countries such as Ecuador.  Colombia also had plans to have electrical grids with Venezuela and countries in Central America.  It generated 50,000 kilowatts per hour, 14 per cent of which was produced by natural gas, 3.3 per cent by coal, and 0.3 per cent by wind.  It was still vulnerable, however, and it had, therefore, initiated an expansion plan for massive consumption of natural gas, in the context of its national energy plan.  Currently, more than 50 million people enjoyed natural and liquefied gas, and there were also plans to expand the use of gas and to export that to Venezuela and Panama.  Colombia had been a leader in the area of clean technology.  It also respected the Kyoto Protocol and its commitments under the Montreal Protocol.

    Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue

    Javad Amin-Mansour (Iran) chaired the second part of the morning's discussion.

    A representative of the Local Authorities group said that many local governments directly owned and operated power plants, buildings, vehicles and facilities, waste management systems, water supply and treatment plants, and so forth.  They also made decisions about transport and transit systems.  All of that influenced energy use, climate change, air quality and public procurement.  In his group, 87 million people were now acting to achieve concrete sustainable development.  That was why local governments were a key part of the process.  Local authorities were places where citizens "knocked" when they needed a problem solved or a direct answer to their personal or collective needs.  Its council was established to increase the political influence of local authorities on climate change, but despite commitments to energy efficiency, clean air and so forth, the local authorities continued to face obstacles.

    The speaker from the Indigenous Persons Group said that everyone bore the impacts of unsustainable economic development and energy growth, and of obscene corporate greed.  There was a growing body of Western scientific evidence now that confirmed what the indigenous people had long known -- that life on earth was in danger.  Global warming and climate change was linked to atmospheric pollution, industrialization and unsustainable practices.  And, the forecasts were worsening.  Climate change posed significant threats to the world's communities, both in developed and developing countries.  Global warming directly impacted people's relationships with their lands and territories, indeed, with their very survival.  His group's review had found that indigenous persons from all regions faced obstacles that limited their effective participation at all levels of discussion and decision-making to address climate change.

    He said that indigenous people were concerned about the modalities and procedures for activities under mechanisms that did not respect or guarantee their rights to the land and to their self-determination.  Solutions to the climate change problem must emphasize real verifiable reductions in fossil fuel emissions.  He welcomed the European directive that understood that large hydro-dams were not climate-friendly; dams and reservoirs, particularly in the tropics, were sources of greenhouse gases.  Nuclear power was no solution to the global climate crisis.  Indigenous peoples had significant contributions to make towards policy development and implementation of solutions to climate change problems.  They might be experiencing vulnerabilities owing to climate change impacts, but they had survived for thousands of years.  They could give support as life energy sustainers now when it was needed most.

    The representative of the Farmers group said that agriculture covered approximately one third of the world's land surface.  Farmers were the largest group of ecosystem managers, and climate change, therefore, affected them most.  The challenge for farmers, on the one hand, was to meet food demand, and on the other hand, to protect the environment from the minimum use of fossil fuels.  Farmers were aware of the deterioration of their resource base, including land, biodiversity and water.  With the latter, they were aware of the possibility of conflicts and even "water wars".  It had been estimated that agriculture currently accounted for more than 20 per cent of the greenhouse effect.  It was urgent, therefore, for policymakers to remove the barriers and provide incentives for farmers.  Everyone was aware of more climate-friendly farming practices, but a lack of financial resources and policy regulation made adoption of those practices difficult to implement.

    She said that inadequate regional information on climate change impacts were among the other major bottlenecks.  Pro-farmer and pro-poor farmer research should be conducted on an urgent basis.  More efficient use of technologies, local know-how and practices to adapt to the changing situations were required, and regulatory systems should be fully implemented and harmonized by the various agencies of Government.  A sound infrastructure and supply system should be put in place to guard against all contingencies.  Farmers sought to reduce emissions, and they were willing to cooperate in combating climate change, reducing chemical inputs and put in practice integrated pest management.

    She recommended the following measures, among others:  regard farmers as key actors; expand scientific research on global climate change; provide infrastructure services to farmers to adapt to the change; raise awareness and give them the technological knowledge to pursue the right kind of technological change; provide farmers with incentives and insurance against unforeseen losses; and ensure implementation, monitoring and review in a harmonized manner.

    A representative of the women's major group stressed that nuclear energy was not an acceptable way to mitigate climate change, as the impact of a nuclear accident did not stop at national borders.  She called on all nations running nuclear power plants to phase out nuclear energy.  She also drew attention to the new risks posed by terrorist and totalitarian regimes.  Women did not want problems to be shifted to future generations.  They wanted their lifestyles to be adjusted in a sustainable way, now.

    Among the several other participants from major groups, a representative from Business and Industry said that the business communities valued the "CSD" process, particularly its precedent-setting major groups structure and multi-stakeholder discussions.  There was a need to evolve, innovate and invest.  That was already happening in many companies.  To provide access to secure and affordable energy required significant investment.  Even so, millions of people would still be without access in the foreseeable future, and that was not acceptable.  Thus, a single energy source was not the whole answer; each presented issues, barriers and opportunities.  Integrated energy policies and actions, therefore, were necessary.  Energy diversification, both from various regions and resources, and the pursuit of efficiency and technological innovation, were among the most pragmatic approaches.  Also crucial was to "stamp out" bribery and corruption.  That shared responsibility was well under way.

    Thematic Discussion on Renewable Energy (PM)

    When the Commission met in the afternoon to consider meeting growing needs for energy services through increased use of renewable energy, it heard that, while the world would continue for some time to be dependent on traditional energy sources, such as fossil fuels, the development of renewable energy -- including solar, hydro, wind and geothermal energy -- must be promoted, particularly in light of rising oil prices.

    Indeed, meeting the world's growing energy needs while protecting the environment was a tremendous challenge, requiring renewable energy sources alongside advanced energy technologies.  As stated by one speaker, the development and deployment of "a suite of practical low-emission technologies" (such as clean coal and renewable energy) was an important step towards meeting the challenge of reducing emissions while meeting future energy demands and maintaining living standards.

    One speaker warned that wind energy might have negative effects in destroying certain amounts of land as part of the production process.  In addition, biomass energy also had potentially damaging consequences, giving rise to gases that were even worse than greenhouse gases, he said.  Studies were needed on the possibly damaging consequences of the use of wind, solar, hydro and biomass energy, in order to avoid problems related to human health and the environment.

    While most participants agreed that fossil fuels and renewables would certainly coexist for a long time, they did not agree with the notion that renewable energies were not environmentally friendly.  As noted by one speaker who had visited a wind farm, any possibly damaging consequences of wind power were negligible compared to the damage done to human health and the environment by burning fossil fuels.  Any fuel that produced a significant amount of pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions was inherently a "dirty technology".  Fossil fuels were dirty fuels no matter how efficient, it was stated.

    "Our past was in fossil fuels, our present is in fossil fuels and the future of humanity lay in fossil fuel technologies", stated Hisham Al-Khatib, Chairman of the Jordan Electricity Regulatory Commission and Honorary Vice-Chairman of the World Energy Council.  Fossil fuels were abundant and, therefore, cheap compared to renewable energy sources.  They were also tradable and versatile.  The alternatives were inefficient and untradable, making them expensive.  He felt future efforts for sustainable development should not be limited to solely promoting new and renewable forms of energy, but should also promote more efficient and environmentally sound use of what was already available.  The future lay with clean and low-carbon technology.

    With transportation accounting for 60 per cent of petroleum use worldwide, Robert Dixon, Head of the Energy Policy Division of the France-based International Energy Agency, stressed that global carbon dioxide emissions continued to grow and would increase rapidly in both developed and developing countries.  At the same time, there were a lot of opportunities in the energy efficiency sector, including a great interest in energy efficient vehicles.

    There were also great opportunities to use new, emerging technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration, he added.  That technology, while still in its development phase, was very promising and moving forward rapidly.  In addition, strides were being made in nuclear energy technology.  The new technology in that area was highly reliable, resulted in low or zero emissions, minimized waste, and was economically competitive.

    Cities were now home to half of humankind, and the greatest user of energy, Vincent Kitio, Human Settlement Officer with the Best Practices and Local Leadership Programme of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), informed the Commission.  In a rapidly urbanizing world, that implied increased use of fossil fuels for needs such as transport and heating.  Despite that, energy conservation and air quality concerns were not high on the policy agendas of many Governments, due to, among other things, lack of information and awareness, financial constraints, lack of qualified human resources and specialized research institutions.  Unless a more rational use of space was introduced, he added, there was very little hope of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

    Several speakers also highlighted the need for financing, technology transfer and capacity building, especially in developing and least developed countries, which did not have fossil fuel resources and had to depend on renewable energy sources, such as biomass.

    Thematic Debate on Enhancing Energy Efficiency (PM)

    Azanaw T. Abreha (Ethiopia) chaired the discussion on the theme of enhancing energy efficiency to address air pollution and atmospheric problems, combat climate change, and promote industrial development.  Specifically, the panel was dedicated to energy efficiency in transportation, including public transport, vehicle efficiency standards, and dissemination of energy efficient technologies.

    The panellists were:  Diego Arjona, Executive Secretary of Mexico's National Commission for Energy Conservation and Technical Secretary of its Technical Committee; Walter Hook, Executive Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP); Francois-Regis Mouton, Adviser, Oil & Gas Division, World Bank; and Maria Elena Sierra, Director for Energy and Environment, Ministry of Energy of Mexico.

    One panellist, Mr. Hook, focused on how the international community might facilitate the deployment of energy efficient technologies in transport.  In transportation, the most energy-efficient vehicle was the human body; anything that ran on human power was the most efficient.  So, the promotion of efficient technology should start with walking.  The bicycle was also very energy efficient.  That was not a problem in the developed world and in Asia and Latin America, but that was an issue in Africa where the supply of bicycles and businesses to support them was not in place.  The global car industry saw Africa as a potential market, but the global bicycle industry apparently had not discovered that 800 million people in their lifetime would never be able to afford a motor vehicle and, therefore, might be something of a market niche for bicycles.  India was "300,000 cycle-rich", and that generated no pollution and lots of jobs.

    He said that the next most energy efficient technologies for transport were those that carried large numbers of people, namely buses, except when they were trapped in congestion by single-person vehicles.  Giving buses the right of way, therefore, was the most important measure developed and developing countries could take in that regard.  Bus rapid-transit systems had opened in Jakarta, Beijing, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and other major cities, and at least 40 more such systems were under development.  Mayors should be encouraged to bring passengers back to public transportation.  The most energy-inefficient technology was the private motor vehicle.  Cities should be designed to encourage people to walk and cycle short distances.  Mayors and cities could encourage mass transit use by such steps as "congestion charging", which was under way in Singapore and elsewhere.

    Mauritius' speaker drew attention to the massive import of United States and Japanese motor vehicles onto the island.  From 2002 to 2005, that number of vehicles had increased by 4 per cent, and emissions from vehicles constituted the bulk of pollutants in the atmosphere.  Air pollution in Mauritius also came from the textile sectors and outdated power generation plants.  Motor vehicles were the only means of transport.  Several measures had been introduced to curb air pollution, such as the introduction of standards for ambient air and vehicle emissions, but it was difficult to enforce those standards, owing to a lack of capacity.  Catalytic converters for new vehicles were being employed, and the benzene level had been capped at 5 per cent.  Unleaded petrol was introduced in 2002, and air monitoring had confirmed lower levels of lead in the air.

    He said that efforts to decrease traffic congestion had been characterized by the introduction of special lanes and trying to decentralize some of the services in the capital.  Being a small island State, Mauritius still had very serious difficulties addressing those issues because once it addressed one, it found itself mired in another.  Pollutants in the atmosphere were not normally at high levels, but those living near factories or motorways had impaired health.

    The United States' representative said that standards and labelling were extremely cost effective.  In her country, applying standards for refrigerators, for example, had resulted in current models that used 60 per cent less energy than their 1980 counterparts.  Voluntary labelling provided a very cost-effective means of disseminating information and branding products in the marketplace as energy efficient and environmentally sound.  In 2005, there was $12 billion in savings in utility bills, thereby preventing greenhouse gas emissions as well.  Significant energy efficiency could also be attained through urban design and planning.

    Given the obvious climate change, Panama's speaker said, the remaining tropical forests and forest plantations were important filters.  More trees could be planted, and forests could be regenerated, thereby increasing their capacity to mitigate gas emissions.  The Central American region had a great channel by which to stop deforestation and increase forest cover.  With many developing countries in the vicious cycle of poverty, deforestation was the result of the need to satisfy a population's basic needs.  That, in turn, caused greenhouse gas emissions.  The need to exploit natural resources consequently destroyed the environment.

    Another panellist, Ms. Sierra, Director for Energy and Environment of the Ministry of Energy of Mexico, urged the international community to move from a technological approach to creating a greater enabling environment that built capacity, established regulatory frameworks and business and technical infrastructure, created incentives, and disseminated information.  It was not a "win-win" situation to transfer to the developing world technologies that had not been fully developed in developed countries.  Mexico had a great scope for realizing energy efficiency through best technologies, if those were affordable and available.  The technologies existed to substantially accelerate efficiency and reduce environmental impacts, but barriers thwarted progress.

    She said that those barriers to progress were:  not going first into the unknown; political risk; and lack of political awareness.  The barriers highlighted the need for more active global preparation.  She advocated the search for reducing political risk, as that only inhibited private sector investors.  Countries should also create policies designed to elicit short-term action.  There was also a need for international agreements that not only promoted the removal of barriers, but prevented inefficient technologies from being sent to developing country markets.

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