Distributed Energy Editor's Blog
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 10:51 AM
An Ever-Green Revolution
A few weeks back, in the blog “The Magical, Radical Clean Energy Pill”, I asked, “Could continued investment in renewable energy alternatives liberate the world’s poor and put an end to poverty?” This week, a UN Panel headed by the presidents of Finland and South Africa went on record to say yes, yes it can.
The panel—created in August 2010 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon—includes 22 members culled from former world leaders and member nations, like the US, Russia, and United Arab Emirates, and is headed by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacom Zuma. The main purpose of this high-level panel, according to Ban Ki-moon, is to bring focus to the secretary-general’s top priorities in time for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which is scheduled for June of this year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The report released by the panel in anticipation of the June conference links the UN’s goals of reducing poverty and inequality to the promotion of renewable energy throughout the world. In order to accomplish this “ever-green” energy revolution, the panel is calling for the full integration of the “social and environmental costs” of a nation’s commerce into the overall valuation of that country’s goods and services. The panel is also recommending the creation of a global education fund, as well as action on human rights and programs designed to empower women, all with “the aim of overhauling economies” in the developed and developing world.
Part of that overhaul includes the creation of a new green revolution, described as “an ‘ever-green’ revolution for the 21st century” that includes spending on “agricultural research, protecting imperiled plant and animal species, conserving land and water, and fighting pollution.” One way to accomplish these goals, according to the panel, is to increase funding for renewable energy projects.
Two decades ago, world leaders gathered in Rio for the 1992 Earth Summit, and the June 2012 sustainability conference is planned as a follow up to that galvanizing event. In 1992, national leaders signed a treaty committing them to “work to protect the climate for present and future generations,” a set up for the Kyoto Protocol that was added five years later. The panel’s latest report is billed as “a new blueprint for sustainable development and ‘low-carbon prosperity’”, and it includes 56 recommendations on how to mainstream those priorities into national economic policy.
In a statement about the report, President Zuma said, “With the possibility of the world slipping further into recession, policymakers are hungry for ideas that can help them to navigate these difficult times. Our report makes clear that sustainable development is more important than ever given the multiple crisis now enveloping the world.”
In response to the report, WWF director-general Jim Leape said, “This report makes the alarming point that while we are already exceeding the Earth’s capacity to support us, by 2030 we will need 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water than we do today.”
So what do you think? How effective are these recommendations when they include no concrete timelines to compel action by national governments and world leaders? Is the answer to struggling economies and global recession more spending and a greater emphasis on technological solutions? And while it’s important to emphasize the benefits of incorporating more renewable energy sources into national and international power structures, what about the potential of greater energy efficiency in present and future infrastructures?
For more on the UN report, go to: http://www.un.org/gsp/sites/default/files/attachments/GSP_Report_web_final.pdf