UNEP: Green Energy Could Save Climate, Forests, Wildlife

PARIS, France, January 10, 2001 – Accelerating the introduction of environmentally friendly energy such as solar, wind and wave power is one of the most pressing issues of the new millennium, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will tell a meeting of the G-8 countries on renewable energy today.

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of UNEP, will be attending a private meeting of the G-8 Task Force on Renewable Energy at the French Ministry of the Environment to hear at first hand how their work is progressing.

Green energy must be put at the heart of sustainable development if the threats of climate change and the need to tackle poverty and ill health in the developing world are to be truly addressed, Toepfer will tell the G-8 Task Force.


UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer is a former German environment minister. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
“Sustainable development, or not cheating on your children, means things like ensuring our ever growing cities function as stimulating and vibrant places to live and work; to ensuring that the poorest people in the world are not forced to chop down forests full of precious wildlife for wood to cook or keep warm,” he says.

“I cannot frankly see how these problems can be overcome without the widespread introduction of non or lesser polluting forms of energy which conserve the planet’s finite resources of coal, oil and other fossil fuels,” Toepfer says.

Renewable energy will be discussed in detail as UNEP and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs host an African High-level Regional Meeting on Energy and Sustainable Development from today through Saturday in Nairobi.

This topic will take center stage as ministers from 10 African countries meet on Friday at UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi to agree on a common position on sustainable energy use.


Part of the U.S. Solar in the Jungle project, a 1-kilowatt solar/battery system is installed at Camp Leakey, Kalimantan Tengah, Borneo, Indonesia for Orangutan Foundation International. (Photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Energy)
The ministers, who include Kenya’s Minister for Energy, Dr. Y.F.O. Masakhalia, will submit their conclusions to the 9th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development taking place in April.

Toepfer’s exhortations come in the run-up to UNEP’s 21st session of its Governing Council in which ministers from around the world will meet in Nairobi from February 5 to 9. Renewable and sustainable energy will be among the key issues on the Council’s agenda.

An invitation has been extended to Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, group managing director of the Royal Dutch Shell Group of Companies to address the Governing Council on how far the G-8 Task Force has come in formulating a strategy on delivery of sustainable energy to the developing world.


Ranchers in Oaxaca, Mexico, celebrate the installation of a wind-electric water pumping system, which will provide a dependable supply of water for crops and cattle. (Photo by Larry Flowers courtesy National Renewable Energy Lab)
UNEP believes that turning the promise of green and less polluting energy plans into installed facilities, able to bring heat and light to rural communities or help pump water to rural communities and rapidly expanding cities, may hinge on developing a pioneering network of advice centers across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Such centers will be able to act as brokers, helping to bring together governments, communities, development banks, other loan agencies and technical experts, to overcome financial and other hurdles which can slow down the introduction of renewable energy projects.

John Christensen, head of the UNEP Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment based at the Riso National Laboratory in Roskilde, Denmark, says an informal network with two centers in each of the three key regions has been established and is already helping countries such as Tanzania develop less polluting forms of energy.

“We have identified regional centers of expertise and now wish to formalize these relationships. We have found that working this way, we can move rapidly and more flexibly to deliver sustainable energy schemes in some of the places where they can make a real difference to people’s lives.” Christensen says.