Global Support Needed To Achieve Sustainable Energy For All

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Prime Minister Freundel Stuart greets Prime Minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, following his address on the 2nd day of the Rio+20 Summit.?? At right is president of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

A clarion call has gone out to the international community to assist in the provision of predictable and easily accessible financial support and technical assistance to achieve sustainable energy for all.

This country’s Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, made the appeal during the second day of the three-day Rio+20 sustainable development summit in Brazil.

Describing the goal as a noble and ambitious initiative, which was grounded in the harsh realities of a world still overly dependent on fossil fuels, he made a case for the global community to come on board and bring the plan to fruition.

Mr. Stuart told his standing-room-only audience that some 20% of the world’s population did not have access to electricity; and he was at pains to point out the well-known environmental and economic vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States. He said that with the price of oil hovering around US$100 a barrel, it was absolutely essential that the world took advantage of the many opportunities that currently existed for the doubling of the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and for ensuring universal access to modern energy services.

The Barbados Prime Minister remarked that the main focus of Rio+20 should be to address the fundamental issue of how to translate this resolve into concrete action, and he called for "a clear implementation pathway and definitive commitments to realize these goals. We, in the Small Island Developing States have defined such a strategy at the High-Level Conference on "Achieving Sustainable Energy For All in SIDS – Challenges, Opportunities, Commitments", which was held in Barbados last month."

Mr. Stuart said such action should not be seen as merely the expression of goodwill or the issuing of platitudes in support of an effort that sounds good on paper, but would not see the light of day. Instead, he noted, it would be "an expression of the collective fortitude of several islands that rest their future on the foundation of the use of renewable resources for their benefit.

He welcomed the creation of the SIDS DOCK, a not-for-profit international organisation, which seeks to facilitate the development of a sustainable energy sector, and to provide the foundation for low carbon economic growth and adaptation to climate change. "This is the type of cooperation mechanism that is needed, if we are to realize the goal of Sustainable Energy For All," Mr. Stuart stressed.

The Prime Minister also pointed to his own country that had been able over the last 35 years to develop a solar water heating industry, to the point (in a population of some 270,000 persons) where there were now over 40,000 solar water heaters in the island, "which I understand is the fifth highest penetration of these items in the world."

He told those who attended the well patronized side event at the summit that, with the necessary support from the international community, the Barbados "solar water heating success story could be replicated in the SIDS, with respect to this and other renewable energy technologies, as well as the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency."

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President??of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, makes a point at a side event. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

A number of heads of government and international personalities, including President Jacob Zuma of South Africa; Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark; the President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno; and British business magnate, Sir Richard Branston, attended the side events and made presentations.

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Sir Richard Branson (left), participating in the High Level Panel??Discussion. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

For the most part, contributors stressed the underlying theme that sustainable development was not possible without sustainable energy, which in turn would enable businesses to grow, generate jobs, and create new markets. They also subscribed to the view that sustainable energy would provide new opportunities for growth during the current global economic downturn.

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