Disagreement over role of renewable energy at World Summit

September 4, 2002

Brussels, 03 Sep 2002

The World summit on sustainable development has resulted in a document calling for countries to act 'with a sense of urgency' to substantially increase the use of renewable energies, but has set no renewable energy targets.

The decision, the product of some intense negotiations over a period of seven months, was largely a compromise between large oil exporting nations and those who wanted to see more commitment to renewable energy development, notably the EU.

Prior to attending the conference, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had signalled his belief that renewable energy technologies could convince the fossil fuel lobby and countries reflecting its views, that renewable energy could not only benefit the environment, but also be a profitable sector. He highlighted new research that the UK was planning to carry out on fuel cell technologies, as well as offshore wind turbines, household waste conversion and tidal energy.

Mr Blair added that he would talk to members of the G8 group (the seven wealthiest countries in the world, plus Russia) about the role of science and technology in achieving specific aims, particularly those of the Kyoto Protocol.

'Science and technology are the key to the door. Of course, we then require the political will to go through it. But it would help if countries sceptical of the benefits of action on climate change could see how it could be gone through,' he said. 'We need a step-change in our understanding of the science and technology capable of...economic growth and protecting the environment.'

The result of the World Summit negotiations on an increase in the use of renewable energies has already been declared a success by some.

'The issue of a target for renewable energy was a worthwhile goal. But the reality is that with sustained action, we can build up the renewable energy industries to the point where they have the critical mass to compete with fossil fuel generated energy,' said Nitin Desai, the summit's secretary-general.

UK environment secretary Margaret Beckett has also commented on the conclusion in a positive light. 'The overall outcome of this Johannesburg summit is truly remarkable. We had to give it our best shot - to get the best deal we could - and we did. I am in no doubt that our descendants will look back on this summit and say we set out on a new path.'

Environmental groups are less satisfied with the agreement, which they had hoped to see set firm targets and a timetable to encourage the spread renewable energies such as wind power and solar energy.

Among those who had also been sceptical about increased use of renewable energy were some African countries. South Africa's environment minister, Valli Moosa, claimed that binding targets for renewable energy use would be a rich country's luxury.

The final text must now be formally approved at a plenary session.

For further information on the summit, please consult the following web address: http://www.johannesburgsummit.org

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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