UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 20, 2000 (UPI)à‚–A new U.N. report prepared in conjunction with major energy suppliers said Wednesday there are no fundamental obstacles to high energy services “and a better environment,” claiming to sideline a 25-year-old idea the world can’t have both.
The 450-page “World Energy Assessment: Energy and the Challenge of Sustainability” report was produced by the U.N. Development Program, the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the World Energy Council, representing major energy suppliers.
The three fundamental changes needed simultaneously, according to the report, are efficiency, greater reliance on renewable energy resources and accelerated development and diffusion of new energy technologies, including cleaner and safer ways of using fossil fuels.
“There are no fundamental technological, economic or resource limits constraining the world from enjoying the benefits of both high levels of energy services and a better environment,” the report found.
But it also said economic development in the 21st century will depend on the implementation of far-sighted policies and pricing mechanisms to encourage greater energy efficiency, more reliance on renewable resources and advanced energy techniques.
The UNDP said the report was drawn on findings from more than 100 scientists, energy experts, social researchers and development experts around the world.
“No responsibility is greater than that of enabling men, women and children, in cities and villages around the world, to make their lives better,” said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Millennium Summit. “This report clearly shows that energy is inextricably linked to this goal-and that it can be achieved while also protecting the ability of future generations to sustain their lives on this planet.”
The report was released at a news conference with UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, Economic and Social Affairs Department Assistant Secretary-General Patrizio Civili, World Energy Council Secretary-General Gerald Doucet and World Energy Assessment Chairman, Jose Goldemberg.
“This report does not minimize the challenges ahead, which are indeed daunting,” said Goldemberg, a former science, environment and education minister of Brazil. “We are at a crossroads in term of our energy future. It we fail to take the right turns, we have no one but ourselves to blame.”
Despite global resources, 2 billion people struggle to meet their basic needs due to limited access to modern energy supplies, Brown said. The productivity and health of a third of humanity are diminished by a reliance on traditional fuels and technologies, with women and children suffering most.
He said the report was “extremely timely” seeing the recent fuel crisis in Europe. “It’s a warning to us the debate is playing out. It means the debate is not being won.”
Said Goldemberg: “People will realize this is a preview of what will happed in 20 years for real. I have to say, we have to diversify.”
Current methods of energy production distribution and use worldwide are major contributors to environment problems, including global warning and ecosystem degradation at the local, regional and global levels, the report said. It concluded the problems could be addressed through changes in public policy and private sector initiatives.
However, since energy systems are capital intensive and have long lifetimes, new approaches are needed now or the world may find itself locked into unsustainable patterns of energy production and use resulting from current investment decisions. Doucet warned not to count on natural gas since prices have doubled recently. He expressed hope in nuclear power, advising against dismissing it on safety grounds.
Civili said: “Developing countries should leapfrog, not copy, technology, with the telecommunications industry an example. Some developing countries use cell phones as much as they are used in developed countries.”
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