12 May 2006

Global Climate Change Poses Greatest Challenge in 20-Year Odyssey towards Sustainable Development, Commission Told, as High-Level Segment Continues

UN Officials, Delegates Focus on How to Encourage Economic Growth for Poverty Reduction Without Compromising Environmental Sustainability

NEW YORK, 11 May (UN Headquarters) -- Global climate change posed the greatest challenge in the 20-year odyssey towards sustainable development, a top United Nations environment official told the Commission on Sustainable Development today, as it continued its high-level segment.

During discussions with representatives of United Nations entities and civil society groups, the Commission was reminded of the inter-connectedness of the four themes of the current session -- energy, industrial development, air pollution and climate change -- and the need to address how to encourage economic growth for poverty reduction, without compromising environmental sustainability.

Climate change, stated Richard Kinley, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, arose from the accumulated results of two centuries of unsustainable industrial development, energy production, land use, lifestyles and consumption patterns.  Its impacts were increasingly being felt and acknowledged.  Those impacts -- whether sea-level rise, melting ice caps and glaciers, severe weather events, drought, flooding, warming -- would affect every aspect of society and economic life.

The energy sector, he added, had to be at the centre of any climate change strategy, and any sustainable development strategy, since about 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions came from the production and consumption of energy.  Two thirds of the increase in global energy demand would occur in developing countries.  It was imperative, therefore, to avoid locking the world into energy choices with 50-year horizons that would inexorably push the world toward climate changes of unprecedented proportions, and demands for adaptation that simply could not be met.

The World Bank's Acting Vice-President for Sustainable Development, Steen Jorgensen, said that adapting to climate change and variability was no longer a question for the future, but an imperative to avoid new economic and human disasters, which would disproportionately affect developing countries and vulnerable populations in those nations.  The overall annual costs to adapt to projected climate change were likely to be in the $10 billion to $40 billion per year range, of which about a third was associated with public finance.  The business community should be an active participant in that process.  Private sector investments were threatened by climate change impacts, and adaptive actions were often cost-effective, even from a bottom line perspective.

A representative of non-governmental organizations called on Governments and stakeholders to urgently move away from the current fossil, large hydro and nuclear energy systems through, among other things, removing subsidies.  Such removal would better enable the shift to renewable energy.  It was not possible to achieve sustainable development without transforming the way energy services were provided, or improving access to energy.  Oil consumption and prices were rising, which would likely have additional impacts on the poor, not only in rising energy and transport costs, but costs for basic food supplies.  Meanwhile, fossil fuel, nuclear and large-scale hydro energy were capital intensive and centrally driven approaches, which did not support sustainable economic development.

In today's era of high gasoline prices, stated the representative of the farmers group, agriculture could play an increasingly important role in meeting the call for renewable energy and meeting energy security needs overall.  As fossil based fuel sources became economically, environmentally and politically unsustainable, the global economy would rely increasingly on wind, solar and other energy sources.  Farmers could be at the forefront of that revolution, by utilizing the products that grew on their lands and finding innovative uses for them.

The "outright and emotional discrimination against oil, in particular, and fossil fuels, in general, is unrealistic", stated Mohammed Barkindo, Acting Secretary General, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).  The challenges of energy security, energy poverty, climate change and sustainable development could only be overcome through a comprehensive and balanced approach.  It was clear that fossil fuels would continue to satisfy the lion's share of the world's growing energy needs for decades to come.

Also addressing the Commission this morning was Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo, as well as representatives of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Health Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, the Global Environment Facility, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Forum.

The representatives of the following major groups also participated in this morning's dialogue:  women; workers and trade unions; business and industry; local authorities; scientific and technological communities; indigenous people; and children and youth.

Statements were made this afternoon by ministers and representatives of Austria (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum), Morocco, Kenya, Kuwait, Norway, Romania, Côte d'Ivoire, Poland, Lithuania, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, Bahamas, Barbados, Egypt, Russian Federation, Finland, Burkina Faso, Belgium, Lesotho, Mauritius, Botswana, the Sudan, Pakistan, Suriname, Ethiopia, India, Croatia, Mexico, Japan and Venezuela.  A representative of the European Commission also spoke.

The Commission will continue with its high-level segment at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 12 May.


The Commission on Sustainable Development met today to continue the high-level segment of its fourteenth session.  (For background on the session, see Press Release ENV/DEV/887 issued on 28 April.)

Dialogue with United Nations System and Other Organizations

JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that, in light of the discussions so far in the Commission, he wanted to underscore six issues that should be the subject of particular attention.  The first issue was access, not only to electricity, but also to renewable cooking fuels.  The second was the issue of energy efficiency and how different agencies could contribute to that task.  That was an area in which the most gains could be made, as stressed by many speakers.  The third issue was energy diversification, which had several dimensions, including advanced fossil fuel technologies and renewable energy technology.

The fourth issue, he went on, was the better use by developing countries of market mechanisms.  The other issues mentioned all required financing, but the fourth issue could actually become a source of financing.  The fifth issue was transportation, such as how fuel would be managed and alternative fuel sources.  The sixth issue was adaptation, in particular with regard to small island developing States.

KIM HAK-SU, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the regional commissions had a comparative strength in regional advocacy.  Thus, they were well placed to effectively promote the regional implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and related sustainable development commitments.  Many of the concerns related to the cluster areas were shared by all regions, including limited access to energy, poor air quality and vulnerabilities to climate change.  Many countries had identified four areas for action:  poverty reduction through enhanced access to modern energy services; improved energy production and consumption efficiency; diversification of energy resources; and the development of cleaner fuels and advanced fossil fuel technologies.

The key challenge for all, he said, was how to continue with economic growth for poverty reduction without compromising environmental sustainability.  All five regional commissions stood ready to further strengthen their collaboration at all levels and with all partners, including the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), so that together it would be possible to give fresh impetus to moving forward the sustainable development agenda.

AD MELKERT, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said one only had to open a newspaper today to see that energy issues were increasingly high on the political agenda.  But what should not get lost in political discussions was that energy was also an economic and social issue, and essential for poverty reduction.  Energy was paramount for achieving all the Millennium Goals, from reducing poverty to increasing education.  At the global level, the Earth's energy resources were more than adequate to meet demand, but the picture of global supply and demand was skewed.  The five largest countries outside the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) would need about one third of global energy investments.  That risked a situation in which not only would the Millennium Development Goals not be achieved, but 1.4 billion people would be without electricity by 2030, if the current trends continued.

He was delighted that energy for sustainable development was one of the themes for the current session and that energy security would be on the agenda of the forthcoming Group of Eight Summit.  It was vital to invest more heavily to ensure equal access to energy services.  In that connection, energy for the poor must be mainstreamed and reflected in national development strategies.  Clearly articulating the energy needs of the poor and outlining ambitious national energy targets could achieve far-reaching impact, especially when backed by the requisite political commitment.  Also, mobilizing sufficient financial resources, both domestic and foreign, was critical.

HAMA ARBA DIALLO, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said energy sources were at the centre of natural resources degradation in many areas of countries affected by desertification.  There were various options for renewable energy that had been singled out as alternatives, which could be both beneficial to the welfare of communities in rural and urban households, as well as being environment friendly.  Those included photovoltaic solar; biomass; wind power; and micro-hydraulics.

In Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, where parties to the Convention had elaborated programmes to address desertification and land degradation, it had been observed that the poor continued to become both the victims and agents of environmental degradation.  The poverty-environment relationship contributed to natural resources degradation, particularly where a large and growing rural population, while struggling to survive in a limited natural resource base, was compelled to over-utilize the available natural resources.

The over-dependence of rural communities on fuel wood to meet their energy requirements had contributed to deforestation, which, in turn, led to soil erosion, land degradation and water shortages through the silting of water sources, rivers and dams.  The lack of alternative sources of energy ultimately led to over-utilization of existing natural resources, which, in turn, resulted in environmental degradation and worsening poverty.  The benefits to be accrued in developing sustainable energy sources included stemming the depletion of forest resources and control of the resultant land degradation.

AHMED DJOGHLAF, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, said that the world was on the eve of global major extinctions.  Major scientific findings had provided ample evidence that the biophysical consequences of climate change were not a fiction, but a reality.  Atmospheric and oceanic temperatures were increasing, and associated natural disturbances, such as hurricanes, were becoming more intense.  That was due, in part, to those changes.  Hydrological cycles were also being altered:  droughts and floods were returning more frequently, while mountain snowmelt was becoming part of daily reality.  Those changes had far-reaching implications on the biodiversity of the planet, as well as on the global food supply.  The permafrost was melting in the boreal zone and, in so doing, native ecosystems were being reduced in extent.  Plant and animal species in many regions were either moving to cooler environments or were in the process of disappearing, and global warming was driving disease outbreaks.  That was causing, among other things, widespread amphibian extinctions.  Climate change was one of the main drivers to biodiversity loss.

He said that the meeting of the parties to the Convention, through its scientific body, had decided to consider in details the implication of climate change on biodiversity.  Experts from two technical groups on climate change and biodiversity stressed the potential of, and the need for, synergy in the implementation of activities that interlinked biodiversity conservation, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and land degradation and desertification in the context of the objectives of the three Rio Conventions and other relevant multilateral environmental agreements.  They also recommended that biodiversity should be part of national policies, programmes and plans for adaptation to climate change to allow ecosystems to continue providing goods and services.  Addressing those challenges was essential if the Millennium Development Goals for poverty alleviation, food production and sustainable development were to be met.  It was for those reasons that, for the first time in the history of the two sister Conventions, a joint meeting of their scientific bodies had been held.

Last December, in Montreal, the eighth conference of the parties to the Convention, attended by 4,000 participants, including 122 ministers and other heads of delegations, adopted a major decision on biodiversity and climate change, he said.  That decision mandated the Convention's scientific body to prepare draft guidance on how to integrate relevant climate change impact and response activities into the Convention's work programme.  He looked forward to joining forces for addressing the multifaceted implications of the climate change, including its biodiversity-related impacts.

RICHARD KINLEY, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that climate change arose from the accumulated results of two centuries of unsustainable development -- unsustainable industrial development and energy production, and unsustainable land use, lifestyles and consumption patterns.  Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today were 33 per cent higher than pre-industrial levels, and annual rates of increase had never been higher.  Global emissions of greenhouse gases were rising.  Per capita greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized countries were growing.  In 2003, they were about 20 per cent higher than in 1990.  Although there was a strong trend towards decoupling of greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth, as seen by their decreased intensity in most industrialized countries, that was not good enough, especially since emissions in developing countries would grow for some time yet.  Clearly, more concerted action to reduce emissions was essential.

He said that the impacts of climate change were increasingly being felt and acknowledged.  Those impacts -- whether sea-level rise, melting ice caps and glaciers, severe weather events, drought, floods, warming -- would affect every aspect of society and economy life.  Governments were here not to negotiate action on climate change, but to consider the linkages between climate change and other sustainable development issues, as well as the interrelation between actions to address climate change and wider efforts to achieve sustainable development.  That was key to making a difference, both on the climate change front and in the other areas of development policy.  Global climate change posed the greatest challenge in the 20-year global odyssey towards sustainable development.  It had traditionally been characterized as en environmental issue, but that was a fundamental misperception.  Climate change was not an environmental problem, but a complex sustainable development issue.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol laid the foundation for, and were leading to, action at the international and national levels to address climate change in the context of sustainable development.  The energy sector had to be at the centre of any climate change strategy, and any sustainable development strategy.  About 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions came from the production and consumption of energy.  According to the International Energy Agency, the total energy investment, including energy supply infrastructure, over the period 2001 to 2030, would be $16 trillion.  Two thirds of the increase in global energy demand would occur in developing countries.  It was imperative, therefore, to avoid locking the world into energy choices with 50-year horizons that would inexorably push the world towards climate changes of unprecedented proportions, and demands for adaptation that simply could not be met.  He hoped for a new global consensus on the way forward that made a difference by real action to address climate change and sustainable development.  The Convention's secretariat stood ready to support governments in that challenging, but crucial, mission.

STEEN JORGENSEN, Acting Vice-President for Sustainable Development, World Bank, said that adapting to climate change and variability was no longer a question for the future, but an imperative to avoid new economic and human disasters, which would disproportionately affect developing countries and vulnerable populations in those nations.  During the 1990s, an average of 200 million people per year from developing countries were affected by climate-related disasters, eroding the capacities of whole communities to improve their livelihoods.  Such a situation set back the fight against poverty.  Models of agricultural production suggested serious losses by mid-century, with huge differential effects between rich and developing countries.  Those countries today were facing three main constraints in dealing with the urgent task of climate-proofing development strategies:  increased exposure to climate impacts compared to most developed countries; restricted human capital and technological capacities; and limited access to credit and insurance markets, and to international markets, in general.

He said that the combination of those factors made the challenge of adapting to climate change considerably more difficult, but the time to move ahead swiftly was now, if the world did not want to lose the development gains achieved during the last two decades.  In Africa, the situation was critical.  Some 40 per cent of the population of West Africa lived in coastal cities, and a continuous urban megalopolis with more than 50 million people was expected to develop along the low-lying coast between Accra, Ghana and the Niger delta.  In addition, one third of the people living in that region lived in drought-prone areas.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, floods were continually recurrent in some countries in the region, and even countries located in dry areas were not flood-safe.  He recommended the following:  global adaptation strategies focused on hot spots; global knowledge and research in support of local action; adaptation using a mix of transfer of existing technology, new technologies, and the revision of planning standards and systems; South-South technology transfer to aid adaptation; and integrating adaptation institutionally.

In the short term, he said there was an urgent need to:  develop the information and tools to accurately evaluate the impacts of climate change; assist in the planning for risk insurance and disaster-relief instruments to reduce financial costs to developing countries of climate-related events' and provide capacity-building to assist countries to assess vulnerabilities to the current climate.  He also stressed the need to address technologies that had not been adopted because of barriers or lack of finance, such as changing agricultural systems that were more resilient to weather shock, and multipurpose water storage systems.  The overall annual costs to adapt to projected climate change, such as by climate-proofing development, were likely to be in the $10 billion to $40 billion per year range, of which about a third was associated with public finance.  The business community should be an active participant in that process.  In fact, private sector investments were threatened by climate change impacts, and adaptive actions were often cost effective, even from a bottom-line perspective.

SUSANNE WEBER-MOSDORF, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, noted that pollution from burning biomass fuels was responsible for 1.5 million deaths every year.  That was among the findings of a new WHO report "Fuel for Life", launched last week.  Energy was essential for health and livelihoods.  Yet, both energy production and energy use could be harmful to health.  Among other things, it contributed to pollution in the living environment.  The impact of energy consumption at the household level was staggering.  More than half of the world's population relied on wood and coal to meet their household-fuel needs.  It was crucial to improve air quality in the homes of the poor.  The health and productivity gains made energy investments worthwhile.  Health could and must be part of the solution.  It must be a key parameter for implementing policies towards more equal access to energy.

R.D.J. LENGOASA, Assistant Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, said that the current understanding of climate was informed by data derived from a worldwide network.  He highlighted the work of, among others, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Climate Research Programme, as well as the benefits derived from early warning systems.  The extensive use of networks and partnerships in science and technology was critical to understanding needs and developing appropriate policies.  Partnerships were only as good as the partners that participated in them.  Capable and competent national meteorological services were an important part of the future understanding of the Earth/atmosphere interface.

LEONARD GOOD, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), referred to a new resource allocation framework that the GEF would be adopting this coming year.  He reiterated, with regard to the least developed countries and small island developing States, that the Facility had a major new direction pertaining to climate change adaptation.  Adaptation was not something that was well understood; he liked to refer to it as "climate proofing development".  The GEF was administering four separate funds dealing with adaptation to climate change and was generating serious resources for all of them.  There were many instruments in the GEF that were available to least developed countries and small island developing States.  Beyond tailored adaptation funds, it had tailored cross-cutting capacity-building programmes and small grants programmes.

KIYO AKASAKA, Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), reporting on recent meetings and developments, as well as the elaboration of new policies, noted that new hydropower facilities were needed, as well as new facilities and settlements along the coastal areas, considering the long-term effects of climate change.  Agreements were being implemented to help Governments strengthen energy research and development to curb greenhouse gas emissions and achieve energy efficiency.  At a recent meeting, the OECD launched an energy-technology network.  Guidelines were increasingly being used for mediation on business ethics and interaction on corporate responsibility issues.  The OECD had now developed a policy framework for investment to help countries attract sustainable management investment, which would help Governments and business sectors enhance sustainable development.

ARNE WALTHER, Secretary-General, International Energy Forum, reported on the tenth ministerial forum, which was held in Qatar two weeks ago.  Participants had hailed from industrial and developing countries alike, and the focus had been on energy security and the links between the environment and energy development.  Energy security was at the top of the development discussion worldwide, because of its importance for economic and social development for each and every country.  Energy fuelled the world economy, had an impact on the world environment, and influenced international politics.  It went to the core of national and global interests in an increasingly interdependent world, and it was crucial to meeting the global development goals.  The ministers had noted that world economic growth had remained strong, despite the increase in oil prices and market volatility, but they had voiced concern about the prices.

He said that the participants had felt that the world would continue to rely strongly on fossil fuels, and that those supplies were ample.  They had underlined the need to accelerate development of cleaner technologies and alternatives, and to increase energy efficiency across the board.  They had called for a stepping-up of investment across the energy chain to meet the substantial increase in demand, as some $17 trillion would be needed in the coming decades.  They had underscored that improved access to markets and financial sources was crucial, as was good governance and sound regulatory frameworks, to provide energy security for both producers and consumers.  They had also reaffirmed support for the joint oil-data initiative, he reported.

MOHAMMED BARKINDO, Acting Secretary General, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said it was clear that fossil fuels would continue to satisfy the lion's share of the world's growing energy needs for decades to come.  Since its establishment in 1960, OPEC had committed itself to market stability and to ensuring an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers.  Recently, it had accelerated its capacity-expansion plans, despite significantly rising costs, to help meet future demand for its oil and offer an adequate level of spare capacity, for the benefit of the world at large.  In addition, OPEC and its member countries had also taken an active interest in the economic development and social progress of other developing countries for decades, as well as in environmental issues and the production of cleaner, safer oil.  It established the OPEC Fund for International Development in 1976, with a mandate to reinforce financial cooperation between its member States and other developing countries and to promote South-South solidarity.  To date, the fund had committed nearly $8 billion in grants and loans.  Indeed, it was one of eight multilateral financial institutions either exclusively or largely financed by OPEC member countries.  In addition, there were many bilateral OPEC aid institutions.

Bearing in mind the need for environmental protection, he said that OPEC considered that "it is only realistic" to promote cleaner fossil fuel technologies, including carbon capture and storage.  Consequently, it joined the International Energy Agency Greenhouse Gas Research and Development collaborative programme, as well as the Global Gas Flaring Reduction public-private partnership.  It considered that industrialized countries should take the lead in the development of cleaner fossil fuel technologies, particularly in terms of funding and implementing large carbon capture and storage demonstration projects.  The Clean Development Mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol should also be adapted to facilitate application of cleaner fossil fuel technologies in developing countries.  Meanwhile, the legitimate interests of oil-exporting developing countries, which supplied the world with a very valuable and non-renewable natural resource, should be considered at all times -- as indeed should those of all other developing countries that were suppliers of raw materials to the industrialized world.

For that reason, he felt that the following protocols should be observed:  energy for sustainable development should be viewed in the context of implementation of Agenda 21 and the Joint Plan of Implementation; a comprehensive balance between the three pillars of sustainable development --economic development, social progress, and environmental protection -- should be maintained; and the evaluation of energy sources should be undertaken in accordance with the balanced criteria of reliability, affordability, economic viability, social acceptance and environmental soundness.  The "outright and emotional discrimination against oil, in particular, and fossil fuels, in general, is unrealistic", he said.  The challenges of energy security, energy poverty, climate change and sustainable development could only be overcome through a comprehensive and balanced approach.

SHAFQAT KAKAKHEL, Deputy Executive Director/Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), informed the Commission of discussions at the ninth special session of the UNEP Governing Council, held in Dubai in February.  The ministers gathered at that meeting had focused on various environmental issues, including the importance of energy for poverty reduction and achieving other Millennium Goals.  They had also emphasized the gender dimension, particularly the heavy burden borne by women, as well as the link between energy and climate change, and the need for the development of all forms of energy, with a particular emphasis on renewable energy.

The ministers also acknowledged that it was Governments that had the primary responsibility for implementing policies and creating an enabling environment for investments.  However, developing countries emphasized the need for support from the international community, the GEF and United Nations entities in policy advice, technology transfer and capacity-building.  Emphasis was placed on special arrangements for promoting renewable energy.  The Governing Council called on UNEP to continue its work to provide policy support to Governments, make available information on best practices where renewable energy efforts had succeeded and training in the area of renewables.

The UNEP, he said, was undertaking a number of initiatives to support investments in renewable energy in developing countries.  It had recently held a meeting in Nairobi on renewable energy investments.  He noted a need for greater coordination and cooperation among the various United Nations agencies.  While "UN Energy" as a coalition had been established, it was necessary to ensure that United Nations agencies pooled their resources to meeting energy challenges.

During the ensuing discussion, one speaker noted that financing sustainable development projects remained a barrier to the efforts of countries.  While there had been concern about the low level of contributions to the GEF in the past, the new challenges faced by the Facility in the area of replenishment had given rise to frustrations and concerns about the future.

He added that it was not wise to categorize energy resources as good and bad.  There would continue to be a need for all sources of energy, including fossil fuels.  While the world would continue to rely on fossil fuels, it would also need to continue to promote renewable energy sources.  Another speaker agreed that it was not likely that countries would be able to phase out their reliance on fossil fuels in the short term.  Therefore, it was necessary to achieve greater energy efficiency and reduce harmful emissions from fossil fuels.

One speaker highlighted the potential of geothermal energy, which was often dismissed as a marginal energy source.  While it was not a practical option everywhere, the same could be said of wind, solar and other energy sources.  Geothermal energy could be a sizable part of the solution to the climate problem and development needs.  She stressed the leadership role of the international financial institutions in that regard, and challenged those institutions, as well as regional development banks, to help remove barriers and to consider the long-term economic advantages of that particular energy source.  The obstacles hampering the use of geothermal energy were the same as those facing other sources of renewable energy.

Dialogue with Major Groups

A representative of the non-governmental organizations said it was not possible to achieve sustainable development without transforming the way energy services were provided, or improving access to energy.  Few issues cut across all aspects of socio-economic development, few had the ecological, climate changing and health impacts of the current fossil fuel, nuclear and large-scale hydro-energy regimes.  The best efficiency and savings strategy was altering production and consumption patterns.  Oil consumption and prices were rising, which would likely have additional impacts on the poor, not only in rising energy and transport costs, but costs for basic food supplies.  Meanwhile, fossil fuel, nuclear and large-scale hydro-energy were capital intensive and centrally driven approaches, which did not support sustainable economic development.

She called on Governments and stakeholders to urgently move away from the current fossil, large hydro- and nuclear energy systems through, among other things, removing the subsidies to enable the shift to renewable energy.  The current Commission session should fully recognize that nuclear energy could not provide the solutions; that was indefensible as a source of energy for a sustainable future, and was not a solution to climate change.  There must also be an immediate redirection of funds for renewable energy.  Renewable energy and energy efficiency should feature prominently in the strategies developed for achieving sustainable development by nations.  Those strategies, in turn, should include nationally determined targets and time frames, which emphasized the importance of renewable, decentralized energy.  That would create domestic self-reliance, uplift rural and poor communities, create jobs and livelihoods, ease the burden of poor women, ensure ecological sustainability and promote sustainable development.

From the women's group, the speaker said that many interventions had failed to focus on micro-level activities and had avoided discussions of international cooperation, both crucial to progress.  Furthermore, business and industry had been given special status, and market-based strategies had been incorrectly validated as a "fix-all" solution to energy poverty and access.  The ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development had called on all Governments to undertake actions to support global endeavours to promote equal access and opportunities for women in relation to energy, as had Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg outcome, among other outcome texts.  The women's major group believed a commitment to a rights-based and gender-sensitive approach to energy policy planning and implementation was critical to tackling energy poverty and unsustainable energy use.  She, therefore, urged Governments to refocus their commitments during the current session on global cooperation towards meeting those goals and setting targets and timetables during next year's policy session.  She applauded Governments that had been leaders in that regard.

Among the key actions to achieving gender equality and women's empowerment in the energy sphere, she highlighted:  ensuring women's access to, and ownership of, clean and affordable energy sources; replacing nuclear energy with readily available renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and biofuels; guaranteeing women's effective participation in decision-making at all levels; developing the capacities of energy institutions to engage with gender issues;  building women's individual capacities to facilitate access to information and skills development; and ensuring that conservation and environmentally friendly approaches were central to the provision of energy services.

The representative of workers and trade unions said that experience had shown that much clearer policy direction was required from the Commission in several key areas.  Among them was the need for Governments to take responsibility for oversight, regulation, economic policy and equitable provision of public services.  The creation of decent work was one of the surest ways to advance the global development goals.  At the same time, an alternative development model was required for a planned transition from dependency on fossil fuels towards a proactive renewable energy policy, particularly to supply the needs of poor and marginalized groups.  Public utilities, for example, should be placed at the centre of coordination and implementation.  The interlinkages between production and consumption had proven to be the key to any fundamental changes affecting industrial development, energy, air pollution and climate change.  And, labour standards had provided a basis for positive change at the workplace.  Indeed, government policy frameworks that enabled participation by workers and their trade unions had led to positive action for sustainable patterns of production and consumption in the workplace and society.

He called for positive policy development in several areas.  Among them:  the need to improve access to energy services by upgrading and redefining roles for public utilities; meeting a growing need for energy services by enhancing the borrowing power of local authorities through planning of debt burdens and legislative frameworks for improved decision-making; enhancing energy efficiency by aggressively tackling atmospheric pollution with industrial development policies that emphasized government oversight; addressing poverty eradication through decent employment creation and skills upgrading; and promoting social development and strengthening the shift from global market resource-depletion patterns towards regional/subregional production to avoid external dependency and negative environmental impacts.  He also called for situating climate change policy within a sustainable development framework.

In the ensuing discussion, South Africa's representative stressed that a sound resource base and social infrastructure were required for survival.  At the end of the Summit in Johannesburg, Governments had called on the major groups to support the Commission's programme to promote Agenda 21 and implementation of Johannesburg's outcomes.  They had also decided that the results of such activities should be an input to the Commission's review sessions.  Indeed, there was a role for all stakeholders, and the actions and voices of youth, women, academic and scientific communities, journalists and so forth made clear they were all keenly aware of the current crisis.  It was also true that the lobbying and actions of those groups and non-governmental organization in the Doha Round of trade talks were instrumental in efforts to achieve a more equitable global trading system that responded to the development challenges of the day.  The question to be asked here was what had been done to promote sustainable production patterns in business and industry to employ safer and cleaner technologies.

The representative of the Dominican Republic said that engagement with the major groups had highlighted the major challenges.  Moving forward, however, required a greater focus on the Chairman's summary, for which an effort should be made to integrate the eight action points of the women's group.  The Commission was "not a talk shop".  In reading the Chairman's summary last night, he had fallen asleep, and he had had a nightmare that there was a consensus around reliance on fossil fuels.  Now, everyone was awake and back in the conference room, and he knew that consensus did not exist.  The key was to recall what the World Bank said yesterday, namely that to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, 560 million people needed access to energy services, requiring some $200 billion.

He said, however, "our hands are tied" in the Dominican Republic.  The country relied 100 per cent on fossil fuels, all of which it imported.  Thus, it was not possible to achieve "MDG 7", or the one on reducing infant mortality, or the targets to reduce by 50 per cent extreme poverty or hunger, and it would even have trouble achieving "MDG 2", as schools would continue to suffer blackouts.  The session with major groups was an opportunity to focus more on the constraints and the implementation means of the document.  On another matter, there was no single body within the United Nations dealing with sustainable energy -- no Jeffrey Sachs of energy, no champion, no high commissioner for sustainable energy, no home for it here.  Perhaps, that should be considered within the context of the reform.

The business and industry group was represented by the Chair of Business Action for Energy, an ad hoc umbrella body created as a platform for action between business and industry and Governments.  Its representative said that engagement between business and Governments was illustrated by several events during the session, not least of which was yesterday morning's panel with the participation of high-level representatives of the business sector.  It was clear that business would continue to play an important role in energy solutions, in partnership with other stakeholders.  Business operated under sound and predictable enabling frameworks.  Such frameworks were crucial for attracting needed investments.  Business Action for Energy had come up with 13 key energy messages, including the need for an open and innovative financing system, research and development, and the need to consider all energy sources as options to meet energy demands.

Noting that there seemed to be a consensus that the time for energy efficient technologies had arrived, he urged that a great deal of work be done between now and the fifteenth session of the Commission on that issue.  There was no reason why United Nations energy access targets could not be achieved.  The business and industry sector would like to see, in the coming year, concerted efforts to work together to develop proposals and projects in that regard.  Business would like to work with Governments to ensure that the fifteenth session of the Commission resulted in an action-oriented framework to further promote joint action in order to maximize social, economic and environmental returns.

The representative of local authorities said municipal leaders had the ability to change the current trend of climate change, through local policies and actions that would meet or exceed targets set by national Governments.  Many local governments owned and operated power plants and made decisions on energy sources.  They owned and operated buildings, vehicles and facilities, such as street lighting, waste management systems, and water supply and treatment. They also made decisions on transportation and transit systems.  All of those responsibilities influenced energy use, industrial development, air quality and climate change action, and public procurement.

Local governments, however, faced the challenge of providing essential services, improving and extending service delivery to meet growing needs, while eradicating poverty and inequitable access to basic services.  Local governments were, therefore, key stakeholders in the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and to the achievement of the Millennium Goals.  Many local governments had committed to a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  They had further committed to minimizing the dependence on fossil fuel energy through sustainable land use that encouraged public transit, reduced automobile reliance, and improved energy efficiency.  Local governments must be fully engaged in all strategies to achieve sustainable growth.

A representative of the scientific and technological community stressed that climate change was real.  The increase in greenhouse gases due to human activities was altering the Earth's climate, bringing about a general global warming, as documented in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Action to reduce greenhouse gases was long overdue.  Urgent action was needed to design and implement measures to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.  There was also a need for enhanced support for scientific work on the issue.  He hoped that the launching of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) would lead to more and better climate-related data and information.  It was important to ensure that the developing world also benefited from that System.

Quality of life was strongly related to available energy services, he stated.  Meeting future energy demands would require a mix of all available energy sources and technologies.  It would require drastically increasing the efficiency with which energy was converted and distributed.  It would also require cleaner technologies, including cleaner fossil fuel technologies, as well as more work on promoting renewable energy technologies.  He highlighted the need for major capacity-building in science and technology, including the need to increase public investments in higher education and in research and development.  Also, there was a need for enhanced research and development funding.  Government investments in renewable energy technology had been declining since the mid-1980s.  The scientific and technological community was committed to working nationally and internationally with all stakeholders towards finding scientifically sound solutions to the problems addressed in the Commission's current cycle.

In the discussion that followed, speakers echoed the need for greater investments in technology and capacity-building, as well as for innovative forms of financing, in order to develop effective and practical solutions for achieving sustainable development.

It was the poorest, said one speaker, that would suffer first and the most from climate change.  While some countries had put in place promising policies, the world at large was way behind what was needed to address climate change.  In that regard, she said emphasis was needed in three areas:  renewables, sensible use, and clean up.  While the primary responsibility for addressing such issues lay with Governments, they could not do it alone and needed the active participation of all segments of civil society.

The representative of the WHO believed health should provide the vision and motivation for defining and implementing better energy policies.  She noted that health concerns were a major driver for improving air quality in the homes of poor and in cities, as well as for reducing the human impacts of global climate change.  She stressed that air pollution was a major public health tragedy, with indoor pollution killing 1.5 million people every year.  She called for strong linkages between health, environment and sustainable development.

The representative from the indigenous group called for a moratorium on large-scale energy and extraction projects whose impacts were disproportionately borne by indigenous peoples, women, poor people and future generations.  The ecological footprints of nuclear energy and large dams were unacceptably huge.  The extractive industries must be downsized, as the world moved towards sustainability of production and consumption.  Governments must reverse the negative impacts of economic globalization on indigenous people by prioritizing local Agenda 21 solutions, including sustainable agriculture, community and development initiatives, and local enterprises.

He said that Governments must also set high standards for corporate accountability through regulatory frameworks, in order to safeguard communities.  Local impoverishment and environmental degradation were the legacy of conventional economic growth and industrial resource development, which transferred resources and wealth from indigenous peoples and local communities to the private sector.

Given the scarcity of financial resources for sustainable energy and new renewable options, social equity required that financial support was best directed towards decentralized and appropriate technologies, which could immediately address the needs of the poor and developing countries, while promoting self-reliance, he said.  Global warming affected indigenous peoples through melting ice in the Arctic, drought and desertification in Africa, rising sea waters in small island States, and extreme weather conditions across the globe.  Indigenous peoples' traditional knowledge of lands and local conditions was a vital contribution towards climate-impact assessments and for identifying measures for climate-change adaptation and mitigation.  Indicators pertaining to indigenous peoples' poverty and well-being were alarming.  Actions undertaken to address climate change must not deepen social and environmental injustice, and sustainable development must be participatory in planning and implementation. 

The representative of the farmers group stressed the increasing need to replace petroleum fuels with bio-based fuels and find other renewable energy sources.  Some farmers' organizations around the world had long promoted that and expanded the application of on-farm renewable energy sources as the answer to eliminating dependence on fossil fuels.  Farmers also saw that as a way to contribute to mitigating climate-change challenges and invigorating rural communities.  Farmers were eager and willing to participate in programmes to mitigate climate change as an integral part of the sustainable production of bio-based feedstocks and renewable energy products, and they had remarkable stories to tell about how to reach for those possibilities and overcome the challenges.

Despite the obstacles, he said, many opportunities presented themselves.  The fossil fuel-based economy was subjected to increasingly precarious market forces and was ultimately unsustainable.  In today's era of high gasoline prices, agriculture could play an increasingly important role in meeting the call for renewable energy and meeting energy security needs overall.  As fossil-based fuel sources became economically, environmentally and politically unsustainable, the global economy would rely increasingly on wind, solar and other energy sources.  Farmers could be at the forefront of that revolution by utilizing the products that grew on their lands and find innovative uses for them.

He said that the recent abrupt inflation of petroleum prices had suddenly brought renewables into the limelight, but that was only temporary.  The world, however, must act now to make those the mainstay.  Farmers and their organizations must be included in work with scientists and industry, Governments and policy makers, to help facilitate the process.  Linking agriculture to renewable energy was the key.  Political alliances among rural and urban policy makers must be built, as both constituencies stood to benefit from renewable energy development.

The youth group representative said the decisions and plans made here determined whether she and her peers had a future to anticipate.  Youth was the biggest stakeholder at the Commission.  The Chair's summary included nuclear and so-called "clean coal" in the definition of clean energy.  For young people, for the future, the definition was clear:  small-scale hydro, wind, solar, and marine power were clean, but nuclear, "clean" fossil fuels and large-scale hydroelectric and incineration were neither clean, renewable nor sustainable.  She had heard during the session about Governments not adopting environmental and social regulations because of a reluctance to interfere in the market.  She was concerned, however, that many Governments were willing to interfere in the markets through taxes, subsidies and trade barriers, and only on behalf of big business and not on behalf of the people or the environment.  She, therefore, called on Member States to create regulations that enhanced clear corporate accountability.

She said that youth must be informed about how energy would affect their future, so that it could be the agent of their own development.  Education was the critical link between knowledge and action.  There were 2.8 billion youth with unlimited potential for change.  She asked those delegates with children to please stand up, and then asked if, having read the Chairman's summary, they thought the document gave hope for their children in 20 years.  That was the urgency of the fourteenth session of the Commission.  "The future is more than a legacy; it is our lives", she said.

Ministerial Statements

JOSEF PROELL, Minister of Agriculture, Forests and Environment of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that national development plans on access to energy, energy services and renewable energy were crucial.  The European Union had adopted a number of targets, including on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and official development assistance (ODA).  Time-bound targets were a relevant tool to implement efficient policies and measures.  Also, regulatory and market-based frameworks, as well as economic incentives, should be used more effectively.  The links between energy consumption and production, and other issues, such as air pollution, must be addressed.

Sustainable industrial development, he said, was vital for breaking the link between economic growth and environmental degradation.  Also, existing commitments on corporate and social responsibility must be implemented with greater determination.  Barriers and constraints differed for different thematic issues.  However, finance, capacity-building, technology transfer and good governance were among the fundamental requirements for development that was sound environmentally, socially and economically.  Promoting sound partnership and cooperation between the public and private sectors was also vital, in that regard.  The primary responsibility for policy and decision-making lay with Governments and public authorities.  The engagement of the private sector and financial institutions was needed to address the financial barriers.

On behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, ROBERT G. AISI ( Papua New Guinea) said that "SIDS Day" had been particularly useful in helping to identify the obstacles and constraints, as well as the challenges standing in the way of achieving sustainable development.  Since the adoption of the Mauritius Strategy in early 2005, the Forum had yet to see any concrete action by the United Nations system to mobilize resources to support small island developing States in their implementation of sustainable development.  He, therefore, called on the Secretary-General and the United Nations system to provide leadership in galvanizing international support and assistance to implement the Mauritius Strategy.

He said that, on the thematic clusters, climate change and sea level rise was of extreme concern for the low-lying islands and atolls, as well as the coastal areas of small island developing States.  Not only do the impacts of climate change and sea level rise adversely affect the social, economic, infrastructural and other development, but it threatened the very existence of certain small Pacific island countries.  In that context, he underscored the need for international support for adaptation and mitigation projects, as well as resilience-building activities in those countries.  Efforts in those areas were compounded by many factors, including human resources and institutional capacity constraints. 

Renewable energy could play a critical role in generating multifaceted benefits in poverty eradication, social and economic welfare, addressing climate change and other environmental benefits, he said.  Small island States depended largely on fossil fuels to meet their energy needs.  However, that was very expensive for the rural communities and islands.  Further, supplying fuels to isolated islands was not commercially viable.  There was a constant shortage of fuels, thus, making energy security a real concern for countries of the region.  Utilizing renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, wave, biomass, geothermal and hydropower, to meet the energy needs of their people, was the greatest challenge, not only to the Pacific Island countries, but also to the international community, if the world was to make collective progress towards attaining shared goals.

MOSTAFA SAHEL ( Morocco) said that his Government had undertaken reforms in all fields relating to the necessary conditions for sustainable development.  Several initiatives had been launched, including the national initiative for human development in May 2005.  Morocco's energy policy was based on liberalization, diversification of energy sources, renewable energy and partnerships.  The private sector now provided 60 per cent of the country's energy supply.  In its sustainable development policies, his Government emphasized the development of renewables. 

As a signatory to the Climate Change Convention, he said, Morocco had drawn up a national inventory of greenhouse gas emission sources and worked out its first national report, in that regard.  Regarding industrial development, it had adopted, in 1995, a programme of industrial, ecologically sustainable development.  Also, a fund for industrial pollution abatement had been established.  It was necessary to strengthen international cooperation for development, particularly in the areas of renewable energy and clean technologies.

NOAH M. WEKESA, Minister for Science and Technology of Kenya, said that, unless deliberate corrective and practical actions were taken now, most of the commitments contained in Agenda 21, the Johannesburg action plan and the 2005 World Summit Outcome would remain a "mirage".  There was an urgent need to foster economic growth in developing countries through, among other measures, increased investments in infrastructure, technology transfer, capacity-building and broad based industrial development.  Some progress had been made in that regard, although, considerable work remained to be done.  Several developing countries had taken significant steps towards meeting their sustainable development commitments, through the adoption of a range of domestic measures.  Kenya had undertaken policy, legal and institutional reforms and had committed considerable resources to meet its commitments.  Implementation of those reforms, however, was still constrained by insufficient resources, high poverty levels and lack of appropriate technology.

He said that the Commission process should take deliberate steps to address the special needs of Africa in the areas of energy, industrial development, air pollution and climate change.  The challenges those countries faced could be addressed through renewed political will, practical steps and genuine partnerships.  He reiterated Kenya's commitment to the principles of common, but differentiated, responsibility for development and the protection of the environment.  Hopefully, the session would form a strong basis for the Commission's fifteenth session, and advance the implementation of previous agreements.

NABEELA ABDULLA AL-MULLA ( Kuwait) noted that fossil fuels would remain the basic part of energy consumption up to 2030.  Therefore, the consumption of that energy should be done using cleaner and more effective technology, made available to producer and consumer countries alike.  It was necessary to increase investments in the energy sector.  It was also important to strengthen capacities, making it possible for technology to be transferred and placed at the service of development.  Cooperation and partnership in research and development was also essential.

Kuwait had devoted over $100 million to scientific research in the field of renewable energy, she said.  Also, the private sector in her country had adopted carbon sequestration technology.  Environmental protection was a major concern for Kuwait, which had ratified the Kyoto Protocol.  She reiterated the importance of countries accepting their shared, but different, responsibilities for the deterioration of the environment.  Kuwait was devoting resources to developing all sectors of development, both in Kuwaiti society and in developing countries, in the framework of South-South cooperation.  Over 100 developing countries had benefited from assistance from the Kuwait Development Fund, which covered many sectors, including energy.  Kuwait had also contributed to the financing of many development institutions at the regional and international levels.

ERIK SOLHEIM, Minister for International Development of Norway, said that his country was presently the second or third biggest oil exporter in the world.  It was fully committed to the cause of the environment, and that presented some challenges.  There was a need for a dual approach.  On the one hand, everything possible should be done to research and invest in environmentally friendly, renewable energy sources.  On the other hand, it should be acknowledged that, if there was not a tremendous technological shift, fossil fuels would remain the main energy source in the foreseeable future.  So, those should be made as environmentally friendly and as energy efficient as possible, and the oil and gas sector as transparent and accountable as possible.

At first, he said, the Norwegian system had been based on hydroelectric power, and then, on oil and gas.  It was ready to share its expertise, and invest in hydroelectric power in other parts of the world, as that was an environmentally friendly energy source.  In terms of the "oil for development" project, it was also ready to discuss, with other countries, ways to ensure that income from the oil sector was used for development; every drop of oil should be transferred into schools, roads and so forth, for development.  Energy tended to be a male-dominated sector, which was not fair, since the sector affected women at least as much as it affected men.  Thus, improved access for women was a main issue of work to be done in the energy field today.

SILVIAN IONESCU, State Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Waters Management of Romania, informed the Commission of the latest consequences of climate change in his country.  In 2005, there were seven waves of flooding in Romania, the main causes of which included sudden melting of mountain snow, due to global warming; rainfall in overwhelming excess, in short periods of time; and three tornados.  As a result, more than 10,000 families remained homeless for several months, and only State emergency aid and private contributions could help them rebuild their homes.  Aid had also come this month from the European Union to mend structural housing damage.

The main problem this year had been the Danube, with the sudden melting of snow, he said.  The dam works, built back in the 1970s, had not resisted the pressure from the water and collapsed in some areas.  Rapid interventions limited the effects of the disaster to less than 2,500 houses flooded.  Private fundraising activities were already in place and the Government granted the funds for building materials to those in need.

JACQUES ALLE ANDOH, Minister for Environment, Water and Forestry of C ôte d'Ivoire, said that everyone was aware of the extremely serious threats to the global environment, now fraught with consequences for future generations.  Despite its own social and political crisis, Côte d'Ivoire had managed to electrify 552 localities between 2002 and 2005, making it possible for 60 per cent of the population to have access to electricity.  A programme of micro-financing of funds for the environment had improved conditions of life and health for rural populations, by providing solar energy and lighting in health centres and schools in rural zones.  The discovery of natural gas had made it possible for several businesses to significantly reduce their production costs.  In 2005, the country moved completely to the use of lead-free gasoline. 

Noting that his country was a coastal and agricultural land, he said it was vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  Soil degradation and coastal erosion had aggravated poverty.  Thus, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was a priority of the Government.  Saving energy and building partnerships with the private sector to undertake ambitious projects to, among other things, alleviate the massive destruction of forests and increase forestation cover, were also being promoted.  National capacities were being strengthened, and air pollution was being reduced.  He was convinced that, in order to attain the sustainable development objectives, Côte d'Ivoire needed to mobilize and access resources.  He appealed to all development partners to make increased resources available.

AGNIESZKA BOLESTA, Undersecretary of State and Minister of the Environment, Poland, said a secure energy supply was a prerequisite for further development and economic growth.  While Poland's gross domestic product (GDP) had recently grown as much as 6 per cent annually, energy growth had not exceeded 2 per cent, and greenhouse gas emissions had dropped more than 30 per cent since 1988.   Sulphur dioxide emissions had dropped more than 50 per cent and particulates almost 90 per cent over the same period.  Such positive results were due to the implementation of Poland's national environmental policies, including unique financing schemes, namely environmental funds and debt to environment swaps, as well as effective resource use.  In Poland, economic growth and environmental improvements had occurred at the same time.  Biodiversity resources could be used for job creation and development, she said, stressing the importance of reversing the negative global trend of biodiversity loss.

The most important issues concerning energy for sustainable development were improvement of energy security, including energy resource diversification; increased access to reliable and affordable energy services for sustainable development, particularly in developing countries; and increased use of renewable resources for energy production, she continued.  Also important were the decoupling of economic growth from energy demand, by changing energy consumption patterns and improving energy efficiency; integration of energy access, efficiency, air and climate protection measures into national development strategies; and greater public involvement in decision-making, as well as more public-private sector partnerships.

ARŪNAS KUNDROTAS, Minister for the Environment of Lithuania, associating himself with the European Union, said that his country's "Way Forward" was described in the National Sustainable Development Strategy, whose goals related to the thematic clusters of the current session.  In seeking rapid economic growth and development, the country should move forward in a sustainable way, considering the environmental and social aspects.  The implementation review of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, completed at the end of 2005, indicated progress and positive changes, with advances towards defined goals, especially the decoupling of economic growth from environmental pollution.

There was still room for improvement, he said, adding that Lithuania had successfully upgraded building codes to enhance energy efficiency in the construction and housing sectors.  However, total energy efficiency remained a key issue, as the country consumed almost twice the amount of energy per gross domestic product unit as the industrialized countries.  Therefore, new policy measures, such as the recently approved Programme for Apartment Building Modernization, were targeted primarily at increasing energy efficiency.  A special challenge for Lithuania that would arise in the near future was the decommissioning of its nuclear plants before 2010.  The National Programme for the Increase of Energy Consumption Efficiency, approved just a week ago, was an example of Lithuania's efforts to increase the use of renewable energy sources and to ensure efficient energy consumption.

SIRODJIDIN ASLOV ( Tajikistan) said his country did not explore hydrocarbon deposits, because 93 per cent of its territory was covered with mountains, and such exploration would be very costly.  But, the country was rich in water resources, such as glaciers, rivers and lakes, which allowed for the generation of cost-effective and environmentally sound hydropower.  The development of hydropower could serve not only as a powerful impetus for the country's economic development, but would also help address issues such as job creation and the reduction of labour migration and poverty.  The exploration of the country's hydropower resources had made it possible not only to meet its own needs, but also to increase the volume of hydropower exports.

He also called for greater attention to be given to dealing with the Aral Sea crisis, which involved numerous issues of social, economic and sustainable development of the region's States.  In order to halt the crisis, the States of the region had established the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, 13 years ago.  Due to a shortage of investments, a rehabilitation programme could not be properly implemented. 

M. KAZHYKEN, Chairman, Committee on Industry, Scientific and Technical Development, Ministry of Industry and Trade of Kazakhstan, said the main economic goal of the Government of Kazakhstan was to join the world's most economically competitive countries in the next 10 years.  For the foreseeable future, oil and gas would continue to play a dominant role in the energy supply.  However, efforts to develop cleaner and more effective technologies for the exploration and use of oil and gas were important to ensure sustainable development.  Diversifying the economy was increasingly important for reducing dependency on oil and gas exports, due to limited natural energy resources and the need to use renewable sources.  Hence, assistance by advanced economies in helping developing countries to use new technology and renewable sources would be of paramount importance.

The Government of Kazakhstan planned to adopt an Environmental Code that would bring national environmental legislation in concert with international norms, introduce new standards and tighten State controls, he said.  Measures to protect the environment would facilitate the promotion of new technologies for industrial enterprises and the reconstruction of old ones.  In 2003, Kazakhstan had adopted a strategy for innovative industrial development and, in recent years, had established a number of new national development agencies, including a development bank, an investment and innovation fund, and a fund to support small and medium sized enterprises.  And, in order to facilitate the transition to sustainable development in Central Asia, Kazakhstan and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) were jointly organizing an international conference on the role of renewable energy resources in the region's sustainable development, which would be held in Almaty, from 17 to 19 May.

ROBERT LOWSON, Director of Environment Strategy, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom, said that the focus for action-oriented measures at next year's session should be in the following areas:  improving access to reliable and affordable energy services sufficient to meet basic human needs and achieve the Millennium Development Goals; urgent global action to address climate change, requiring all countries to now mainstream mitigation and adaptation within national development plans, with particular support for the most vulnerable countries; achieving sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead, including in the promotion of corporate, social, and environmental responsibility and accountability; and reducing indoor air pollution, which disproportionately affected women and children in developing countries.  Next year's session should generate "negotiated and non-negotiated action-oriented measures" and agree on arrangements to review progress on energy commitments after the Commission moved to the next cluster.

MARCUS BETHEL, Minister of Energy and the Environment, Bahamas, said that his recently formed Ministry was taking great steps to identify renewable energy options suitable for small island developing States.  His Government was also developing an energy policy with the aid of national stakeholders and international agencies, such as the Inter-American Development Bank.  Furthermore, more energy-efficient power-generating plants were being set up, and relevant conservation initiatives were being implemented, through public awareness and education programmes.

At the same time, even as more consumers wanted to switch to solar power, Bahamas was struggling to cope with the high cost of the technology.  This, despite the fact that solar resources were in abundant supply, and the Government had removed import duties on solar panels.  Coupled with the high cost of new technologies, the estimated 25,000 barrels of oil, used throughout the archipelago, made it imperative for the Government to press ahead with efforts to diversify its energy sources.  To that end, he emphasized that there was a definite need to provide more assistance in research and development for small island States searching for more sustainable and reliable energy sources.

He also noted that the Bahamas would be hosting the tourism conference for small island developing States, from 7 to 9 June, which would touch on, among other things, bolstering the tourism sector and the use of renewable energy sources.  He stressed that small islands were very vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise and hurricanes, which were becoming more and more frequent.  Indeed, during the 2005 hurricane season, the Bahamas had been hit with a record 27 storms, resulting in millions of dollars in damage.  While stressing that the Bahamas would do all it could to build a level of resilience, he called for all countries to meet their commitments, under the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement multilateral mechanisms to address mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The Bahamian Government was in the process of adopting environmental legislation to more effectively monitor and evaluate regional ecological conditions and air quality standards, among others.  The Bahamas was also in the process of installing lined sanitary landfills throughout the major islands, providing a more environmentally friendly method for solid waste disposal, and also curb the traditional open burning of solid wastes, and reduce emissions for plastics and other hazardous materials.  It was also studying ways the methane produced by the landfills could be put to use.

ELIZABETH THOMPSON, Minister of Energy and Environment of Barbados, said partnerships were a major vehicle for implementation of policy recommendations.  For meaningful policy outcomes at the Commission's next session, she proposed the establishment of three partnership platforms over the next 12 months.  The first was a technology/development partnership platform, aimed at deepening North-South and South-South cooperation in education and training.  The second was a technology/export partnership platform with the objective of strengthening South-South cooperation in the transfer of intellectual, technical and investment resources.

The third was a cross-cutting platform for the integration of trade, investment and labour protocols, involving donors and international financial institutions, in order to enhance the capacities of the people of the developing world, particularly small island developing States.  She added that the success of Barbados' indigenous solar water heater industry showed that such States could, and were, contributing to further regional and global technology development and transfer.

HASSAN YOUNES, Minister of Electricity and Energy of Egypt, said that his country, in its quest for sustainable development and protection of the environment, had secured electricity for 99 per cent of its population.  It was also conducting aggressive measures to mitigate the effect of electrical energy development on the environment by:  almost fully utilizing the available hydropower resources; maximizing the use of natural gas in thermal power plants; optimizing the share of the combined cycle power plants; rehabilitating old power stations; and achieving optimal operation of the electrical power system.  Those measures had led to several improvements in the past two decades, such as reducing losses in transmission and distribution networks by 33 per cent, and cutting carbon dioxide emission rates per kilowatt hour by 50 per cent.

He said his country had also achieved considerable progress in wind energy.  There were 145 wind farms currently in operation, and 205 were under implementation.  The plan was to reach 850 by 2010.  So, the renewable energy share, including hydro, would reach about 13 per cent by that year.  The potential of solar energy in Egypt was very high, since the country lay in the solar belt, but its use was still very limited, owing to the well known barriers, especially the high cost.  Nevertheless, the first solar thermal integrated power plant with a capacity of 150 megawatts was planned to be in operation by 2009.  Egypt had ratified the Kyoto Protocol in January, and since then, several projects had been submitted to make use of the Clean Development Mechanisms incentives.  Since 1987, Egypt had cooperated with its neighbours to implement interconnection projects and was part of such projects to the east with Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, and to the west with Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Spain.

KONSTANTIN PULIKOVSKIY, Chairman, Federal Environment, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision of the Russian Federation, said that, as a possible way of solving the problem of power supply for sustainable development, a number of countries used renewable sources of energy and developed nuclear energy.  His country was an energy donor on a global scale.  Oil, gas and electric power were the most important Russian exports, and locomotives of the Russian economy.  On the other hand, the production and transportation of energy were leading contributors to environmental pollution.  The need for protecting the environment was one of the most important reasons for moving Russia's industry and energy sectors towards sustainable development and consumption, with resource-saving and best available techniques.

An important component of energy security was environmental safety of industrial power facilities, he noted.  Russia, which held the Presidency of the Group of Eight (G-8) in 2006, had hosted a meeting in March of heads of G-8 State regulatory authorities of environmental and industrial energy security.  The chairman's summary of that meeting reconfirmed the importance of an integrated environmental and industrial approach to the implementation of the G-8 plans of action to tackle climate change, provide clean energy and achieve sustainable development, as it had been agreed in Gleneagles, in July 2005.  He believed that partnership could become one of the instruments to fulfil the recommendations of the March meeting.

STEFAN WALLIN, Secretary of State, Ministry of the Environment of Finland, said that sustainable energy and climate change were high on the international agenda.  Those two themes should be addressed in a coherent manner.  Finland's aim was to strengthen their interlinkages and synergies, when it assumed the presidency of the European Union later this year.  The time was right to have a strategic consideration of long-, medium- and short-term priority issues.  Those included technology options, market transformation and efficient financing.  All of that was in support of the Climate Change Convention and enhancing sustainable consumption and production.  Better energy efficiency and savings, cleaner fossil fuel technologies and a greater share of renewable energy sources should feature prominently in the strategies.

He said that, with the world's total investment in the global energy system in the range of $17 trillion over the next 25 years, a diversified and climate-friendly mix of technologies must be found.  That mix should lead to lower emissions and provide the energy security needed for sustainable development.  No serious option should be overlooked.  The potential of alternative energy sources should be maximized, and energy efficiency should be improved.  The strategic decisions made today must ensure that new climate-friendly options had fair opportunities in future markets.  A major opportunity for collaboration lay in strengthening the Clean Development Mechanism.  He also recommended working hand-in-hand with international financing institutions to facilitate investment and financing.  Also important was to encourage expanding energy savings assessments and energy audits, especially in cases where cost effective investments were possible.  The energy conference in Lahti, Finland, in September, would be a unique opportunity for exchanging experiences gained in energy audit programmes.

LAURENT SEDOGO, Minister of the Environment and Quality of Life of Burkina Faso, said the themes chosen for this session were timely, particularly in view of the global oil crisis.  Per capita energy consumption had become one of the indicators of a country's level of progress.  However, developed countries continued to focus on how to satisfy their own energy demands, without considering long-term issues of energy security, and the social, economic and environmental consequences of that utilization.  Burkina Faso had adopted a development policy in the energy sector, which revolved around, among other things, the integration of the country in the subregional electrical grid of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); the development of an energy management policy; rural electrification; and the improvement of supplies of firewood energy.

Sustainable supplies of energy were envisaged as a means to guarantee prospects for lasting development for the population, he said.  In that regard, emphasis had been placed on the development and strengthening of the firewood energy sector.  His country was also promoting carbon sequestration pits through annual tree planting.  Burkina Faso, with the help of its partners, was strongly committed to energy management, and had established an institution in charge of energy management.  The Government was also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.  He welcomed the Energy for All initiative, as described by the Netherlands, and hoped that such initiatives would proliferate and be supported by the international community, in order to ensure energy access for the poor.

ELS VAN WEERT, State Secretary for Sustainable Development of Belgium, touched on several points:  the necessary role of public authorities on energy use; the importance of cross-cutting issues; increasing the coherence of actions at the global level; supporting the most vulnerable countries; promoting investments in renewables; and enforcing social policies for sustainable development.  She said that each dollar could be spent only once.  Looking at several initiatives outside the United Nations system, she was afraid that some of them were not convincing, with regard to financial flows towards investments on renewables.  She called on colleagues, therefore, to put forward some concrete inputs to accelerate the use of renewable energy.  Development of innovative public/private partnerships could help generate affordable risk capital.  There were also social benefits of decentralized and small-scale renewable energy production, in terms of decent job creation, although everyone should be alert to working conditions and environmental degradation in industrial agriculture for biofuels -- an example of the need to consider the overall balance of action.

She said that the social component of sustainable development was of equal importance to the economic and environmental components.  Access to energy was crucial, but it should also be born in mind that, given the high oil prices, it was not easy for poor people to make use of that accessibility.  It was not only a question of financial support to enable them to pay the bill; the ultimate objective should be to ensure the service with the least possible energy.  She had addressed that in her country.  In the beginning of the year, she had created a fund, as a public enterprise, capable of financing up to 100 million euros in energy saving and efficiency investments in the houses of the poor.  The first investments could be realized before next winter.  If the Commission wanted to live up to its task of being a high-level body on sustainable development within the United Nations, then it needed to give the signal that energy savings, energy efficiency and renewable energy must be part and parcel of energy security policies.

'MAMPHONO KHAKETLA, Minister of Natural Resources of Lesotho, said his country was in the midst of an aggressive industrialization process, and that growth in the textile industry had reduced unemployment -- employing 50,000, as of last year -- and boosted the country's gross domestic product (GDP).  Lesotho's various industries used hydropower, and the Government was searching for ways to diversify the economy by building up the agro-industry, the sandstone industry, quarrying and mining.  And, while the number of households using electricity was increasing apace, in line with the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals, there were a few barriers to such rapid expansion of electricity infrastructure and application of renewable energy sources, particularly in rural areas.

Among the most challenging obstacles were steep upfront investment costs and limited technological capacity to manufacture renewable energy devices, he said, calling for Lesotho's development partners to help the country address those issues.  Further, a troubling side effect of Lesotho's dynamic expansion had been increased greenhouse gas emissions.  The country was aware that increased use of cleaner energy carriers, coupled with energy efficiency measures, would help protect the atmosphere and reduce air pollution, such as smog, which occurred commonly during Lesotho's winter months.

As a small landlocked least developed country, characterized by fragile mountain ecosystems and prone to drought, desertification and other natural disasters, Lesotho was obviously vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  By example, he told the Commission that, in just the past nine months, Lesotho had been battered by tornadoes and faced severe drought, followed by record rainfall and flooding, resulting in deaths, as well as the destruction of infrastructure.  With that in mind, Lesotho had prepared a programme, made up of a number of projects, responding to climate change.  It was also critical that funding mechanisms identified under the Convention on Climate Change be implemented.

ANIL KUMAR BACHOO, Minister of Environment and National Development for Mauritius, said that small island developing States were particularly vulnerable to the impacts of globalization and trade liberalization.  Indeed, small island nations were pressed to change their economic architectures, by exploring niche markets, consolidating tourism sectors and developing service sectors, among others.  But, there was a time lag, as markets needed to be studied, capacities developed, and investment projects funded.  Further, the environmental impact of development, especially in the tourism and manufacturing sectors, exacerbated the unique vulnerabilities of small island States.

Complicating matters further were staggering energy costs, which wiped out all efforts to compete in international, as well as local, markets, and contributed to unemployment and negative growth in many small island nations.  "Our partners in the North have a responsibility to provide comprehensive and timely support," he said, "integrating financial resources, technology development and transfer, as well as capacity-building to accompany our economic reform."  The shift towards renewable energy sources had now become an imperative to boost sustainable development.  Mauritius now derived some 25 per cent of its energy from such sources, and was targeting some 40 per cent in the medium term.

He stressed that there were promising possibilities offered by biofuels, ocean technologies and other sources, but applying the appropriate technology to ensure cost effectiveness and efficiency, and finding the financial resources needed for investment, both in research and production, remained major obstacles for small island developing States.  He called on the international community to show a "real interest" in helping developing countries harness those possibilities.  He also called for donors to direct their full support to help small islands adapt to climate change and to promote research, development and data collection.

ONKOKAME KITSO MOKAILA, Minister of the Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Botswana, said his country was fully committed to implementing the global initiatives outlined in Agenda 21, particularly Chapter 9 on atmospheric protection.  It had ratified the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances and begun efforts, including public awareness campaigns, to phase out the use of such substances, as well as created a Multi-Sectoral National Committee on Climate Change.  Botswana was also preparing its Second National Communication to address cross-cutting issues, such as poverty eradication, health and sustainable development, gender equality, education and the loss of livelihood.

Botswana was also committed to balancing industrial development, which was necessary for job creation and income generation, with pollution monitoring and prevention, he continued.  In that regard, Botswana had expanded its pollution monitoring network to include wider coverage in urban centres and other major settlements.  Such monitoring stations provided data on air quality, including levels of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone.  Botswana was committed to regional initiatives aimed at addressing transboundary air pollution.  The Air Pollution Information Network for Africa (APINA) was vital for information exchange among scientists, policy makers, industry and other stakeholders.  He added that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had successfully coordinated the phasing out of leaded petrol.

Botswana's economy relied on limited local energy resources and imports from neighbouring countries, he said.  Ninety per cent of people in rural areas depended on fuel wood and other solid fuels.  The country urgently needed alternative energy sources and was providing rural areas with cleaner and more efficient conventional energy sources.  Officials had set up the Rural Electrification Programme, intended to electrify at least 15 rural villages annually, as well as a revolving fund to provide households access to subsidized loans for grid connections and a Government-subsidized photovoltaic programme.

AHMED BABIKER NIHAR, Minister for Environment and Urban Development of the Sudan, shared some of the measures his Government had undertaken to achieve sustainable development.  The Sudan had drawn up a national sustainable development strategy.  It had also identified the main elements for achieving sustainable development, which included combating desertification and environmental degradation.  It had taken measures to implement the Climate Change Convention and had a national work plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, as well as deal with the adverse impacts of climate change.  Also, the Sudan was one of the first African countries to use unleaded gasoline, and it had encouraged the use of geothermal energy.

His Government had also drawn up legislation to reduce pollution from the processing and use of oil, he said.  It was seeking to implement cleaner and more effective energy technologies.  The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the recent Darfur peace agreement had opened up new horizons for national accord.  The Sudan was implementing programmes to reduce poverty, combat desertification, and achieve macroeconomic stability.  However, funding continued to be an obstacle in those efforts.  He stressed the need for international cooperation in that regard.  In addition, he urged donors to cancel the Sudan's debt, as well as live up to their financial pledges.

MALIK AMIN ASLAM, Minister of State for Environment of Pakistan, said that the leaders at the 2005 World Summit had reaffirmed their commitment to achieving sustainable development, through implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg action plan, by undertaking concrete actions at all levels.  To date, however, implementation had been the "Achilles heel" of the global development agenda.  Collective stewardship had not translated into local action on the ground.  The biggest challenge of sustainability meant implementation -- ironically, implementation of what had already been agreed -- yet, that commitment had yet to be transformed into a concrete action plan supported by a cohesive and coordinated institutionalized structure and driven by targeted timetables.  The path to sustainability was common sense, but, as had been said, "common sense remained the most uncommon commodity".

He said that the role of the private sector as a driver for sustainable development had to be seriously explored and fully supported.  That was especially critical for investments in the energy sector.  If future global growth was to be ensured on a cleaner and low-carbon trajectory, then incentives had to be provided for the private sector, which had to be made the custodians of sustainable growth.  That required a shift in paradigm.  Fortunately, that shift was already taking place.  The Kyoto market-based instruments and the private sector were beginning to show positive results in the global carbon market.  What was needed now was to further the global sustainability agenda by letting the private sector be the prime driver and letting the Governments set incentives and regulate it.

Pakistan was on a rapid growth trajectory, he said.  Last year, its economy grew at a rate of 8.4 per cent, which was second only to China.  It was becoming increasingly aware that, to translate that economic growth into a better quality of life for its citizens, the country had to remain conscious of the environmental issues.  Development and growth without environmental care was not a sustainable option.  The issue of sustainability was not an element of choice, but a necessary prerequisite for growth.  That would lead to a better quality of life.  The environmental agenda had advanced from being a stand-alone topic to one that was an integral element of the national mainstream development agenda.  Pakistan's environmental budget last year had seen an increase of 700 per cent, and it was now one of the pillars of the country's future growth, with clear allocation of funds in the five-year development plan. 

GREGORY A. RUSLAND, Minister of Natural Resources of Suriname, said that his country had enough energy for the current demand.  However, its goal to increase production and economic development required a strategy for increased energy availability.  Therefore, the goal was to expand hydroelectric facilities, which currently supplied 75 per cent of the country's electricity needs.  With the expansion of hydropower, Suriname would have an additional, reliable source of energy that would allow it to control the related costs of production and, thus, electricity rates.

An additional challenge for the Government was to supply electricity to the villages of indigenous peoples and the interior of the country.  In addition to using diesel generator sets in that regard, the Government had started building small hydroelectric facilities.  Experiments were also being carried out in the area of wind and solar energy, especially in small villages.  The Government was trying to solve its energy questions in such a way that would enable it to meet the demands for sustainable development.  He also informed the Commission of the floods that had affected his country in recent days, and expressed gratitude to those who had provided assistance.

ALEMAYEHU TEGENU, Minister of Mines and Energy of Ethiopia, said that the energy situation in Ethiopia was characterized by a lack of access to electricity and modern energy services.  More than 83 per cent of the population did not have access to electricity, and more than 94 per cent relied on fuel wood as their main service of energy for cooking and heating.  The availability of energy, especially electrical power, offered economic development opportunities, and contributed substantially to the reduction of poverty, protection of the environment, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Ethiopia was endowed with abundant hydropower potential, amounting to the second largest in Africa, yet, it had been able to develop less than 3 per cent of its potential.

He said that, in order to eradicate poverty and realize social transformation, the country had recently launched an aggressive, but attainable, universal electrification access programme.  It objective was to extend national electricity access to 6,000 villages, towns and irrigation water supply sites by 2010.  That would increase access to electricity from 17 to 50 per cent of the estimated 87 million people, by 2010.  The key to achieving the targets it had set for energy access would increase through hydropower generation.  Ethiopia had several hydropower projects under construction, and there were six, whose feasibility was ready and "bankable" for public and private financing.  One unique feature of its energy development programme was its regional dimension, and four such projects were being studied.  Implementation of the national energy programme would not be easy.  It needed its development partners to proactively engage in addressing the shortage of investment, by devising a smooth financing scheme, compatible with its development need, without delay and without preconditions.

PRODIPTO GHOSH, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests of India, said that efforts for poverty alleviation and redressing gender disparities could not succeed without the secure availability of clean, sustainable energy, at low and stable prices.  It was essential that developing countries had the policy space to address their energy needs in light of their individual circumstances.  All energy sources must be considered to address energy needs for sustainable development.  The legal and political barriers to the civilian use of nuclear energy should be addressed, to reduce the world's increasing vulnerability to the multiple risks of fossil fuels.  Many developing countries, including India, still relied on traditional renewable energy for a significant part of their energy needs.  Those technologies, however, had major health, gender and environmental impacts and were inefficient.  The international community had not lived up to its commitments regarding technology transfer, adequate financing, or to creating an environment conducive to development.

The primary responsibility in taking action to reduce the threat of climate change lay with the industrialized countries, in accordance with the principle of common, but differentiated responsibility, as enshrined in the Climate Change Convention.  Climate change was a global problem and the Convention provided the global basis for addressing it.  The world would be a different place if the unsustainable patterns of production and consumption in industrialized countries were reversed.

STAVROS DIMAS, Commissioner for Environment of the European Commission, said that air pollution levels, both indoor and outdoor, were far too high in too many places.  Air pollution should be looked at, together with energy, climate change, and industrial development.  That called for an integrated approach in policy-making to maximize synergies.  Air pollution was a major concern for most countries, but success in curbing it varied from one region to another.  In the last few decades, the European Union countries had successfully reduced air pollution through cleaner technologies and infrastructure improvements, but the damages were still alarming.  The present levels of particulate matter were believed to cause 350,000 premature deaths annually in the European Union, and damage to the ozone level was responsible for additional premature deaths.  That made air pollution not only an environmental issue, but a social and economic one, as well.

He said that the Union was committed to reaching the long-term objective of safe and clean air.  It had set interim targets, such as halving premature deaths from air pollution by 2020.  There would be costs to take that action, but the cost of inaction was much higher.  In developing countries, 1.6 million women and children died annually, because of respiratory diseases from indoor air pollution.  Urban sprawl also exposed them to unsafe levels.  Those issues should be addressed in the policy discussed next year.  Although air pollution was concentrated in urban areas, it travelled long distances, and multilateral agreements, therefore, were very important.  The Union also supported capacity-building in developing and transition countries.  A key message was to take an integrated approach to tackle air pollution, industrial development, energy issues and climate change.

MARIJA VOJNOVIC, Assistant Minister for Strategic and Integration Process in Environmental Protection, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Reconstruction of Croatia, said that the parliament had adopted a 10-year energy strategy in 2002, which called for:  improved energy efficiency; safe energy provision and supply; diversification of energy-generating products and sources; utilization of renewable energy sources; realistic and market-related energy prices and development of energy market and entrepreneurship; and environmental protection.  The latter outlined the key objectives for a strategy related to air pollution reduction, including, among other things, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, prohibition of release into the atmosphere of ozone depleting substances, and the reduction of the emissions of persistent organic pollutants.

She said that the 2002 strategy had also contained detailed action plans for thematic areas of environmental protection in the various sectors, with the aim of achieving a competitive, economically and socially fair, and ecologically sound sustainable development.  In the past 15 years, Croatia had reoriented its development strategy towards a more service-based economy.  As a result, the share of the manufacturing sector in the national gross domestic product (GDP) had been around 20 per cent for the past three years.  In order to improve the country's competitiveness on the global market, several activities at the industrial enterprise level had been undertaken, based on the sustainable development approach.  A cleaner production approach had been launched, with the establishment, in 2000, of the Croatian cleaner production centre, and more than 100 cleaner production projects had resulted in significant savings and reductions, including energy savings and savings in gas and fresh water.  Croatia's strategies, both in the field of energy and climate change, had been geared to enable it to contribute to climate protection.

FERNANDO TUDELA, Vice-Minister of the Environment of Mexico, said the Commission was the perfect space for the interlinkages between the various themes to be considered, and to share case studies on successes and failures.  With regard to biofuel, Mexico's Congress was in the process of adopting a law to promote that energy source, as well as a law for promoting renewable energy sources.  In addition, one of the major companies in the country, whose greenhouse gas emissions amounted to one third of the national total, had voluntarily decided to report on its emissions.  Despite the measures undertaken, his country was facing technological challenges in making clean use of its fossil fuels, particularly in the case of coal.  Also, international cooperation was needed for carbon sequestration.  The Commission, he added, should serve as a stimulus for action.

YASUYUKI EDA, Senior Vice-Minister of the Environment of Japan, said that, since Japan had limited domestic energy resources, enhancing energy efficiency had been one of its most crucial issues.  After the oil crisis of the 1970s, Japan had achieved the world's highest energy efficiency, and that constituted one of the reasons for Japan's current global competitiveness.  Being the world's biggest producer of solar batteries, Japan also contributed to expansion of renewable energy usage.  The efficient use of fossil fuels also constituted a measure to combat climate change.  In order to achieve its reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan had been working on further domestic reductions, both in the private and public sectors, including through the Kyoto mechanisms.  Further promotion of substantial emissions reductions globally, over the long term, was crucial.  It was essential, beyond 2012, to create an effective framework to promote the greatest possible reduction efforts by the "major emitters", while enabling all countries to undertake countermeasures in accordance with ability.

He said that attaining sustainable development required environmentally sound energy supply and use.  His country placed a high priority on sharing good practices with the international community, and it worked in close cooperation with its international partners.  For example, it supported joint global activities on climate change, undertaken by the International Energy Agency and the World Bank.  It was also promoting public and private partnerships, and making great efforts to contribute to other countries' capacity-building and regional cooperation.  As the world pursued environmentally sound and sustainable consumption and production patterns, he recognized that, not only technology-based efforts, but also changes in lifestyles and socio-industrial structures, were essential.  Japan's efforts to improve energy efficiency and promote renewable energy use had led, not only to industrial development, but also to a reduction in air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

NORA DELGADO, Vice-Minister for Environmental Management of Venezuela, said that the development model imposed by capitalism had led to the destruction of the Earth.  Venezuela continued to call for a change of the neo-liberal development model.  It had initiated the construction of a new environmentally sustainable development model.  Also, her country was making important progress in implementing a new mechanism for cooperation, the so-called Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, based on the core principles of solidarity and complementarity.  She hoped that that new initiative would become the engine to ensure the reductions of socio-economic asymmetries and a fairer and more just society.

Venezuela had more than 90 per cent electricity coverage, the highest rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, she said.  Hydropower generated 75 per cent of the electricity in the country.  She also underscored that Venezuela had completely eliminated lead in gasoline.  In addition, she denounced the manipulation, to which oil producing countries were subjected when oil prices were associated with aggravating poverty, without finding out the real cause of the problem of poverty.

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