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Wake-up Time for Governments
By Michael Kvetny, INFORSE Secretariat
Forum for Energy Development
The latest reports from the UNDP and the World Bank, “Energy as a Tool for Sustainable Development” and “Fuel for Thought”, respectively, advocate a new approach to energy in development. The energy sector is still driven primarily by issues of supply, but the focus is changing in response to the needs of the South, to define strategies to supply people with the energy services that they need to achieve sustainable development. Only if energy initiatives are linked together and planned across sectors can goals of social and economic development be addressed together.

As the UNDP points out, experience has taught us that an energy sector dominated by government agencies does not have the flexibility or the reach to provide the diversity of choice that consumers need to fulfil their energy service needs. Until an environment is created that provides an enabling framework in which a variety of enterprises are encouraged to provide sustainable energy services to communities, top-down conventional energy supply will continue to dominate.

The role of governments is an important one, as only they can create the right policy environment. National and regional sustainable energy strategies are necessary to create this policy environment. The process of developing and implementing the strategies will be crucial for energy in sustainable development. The UNDP finds capacity-building to be the cornerstone of sustainable energy systems. Capacity to inform consumers as well as potential providers of the technologies available, to adapt existing technologies, and to devise new ones.

NGOs have long advocated cooperation between government, the business community, and the civil society as a powerful measure in the process of developing and implementing strategies for energy in sustainable development.

But changes do not come easily. Although the international development agencies advocate for the new approach, there seems to be a long walk ahead before governments will accept this new approach. The first session in the Group of Experts on Energy and Social Development, which took place from 6 to 10 March 2000 in New York City, clearly showed that this new approach is not common sense to all governments. Indeed, it was difficult to find any governments arguing for this approach. The 9th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD9) in 2001 will be the right place to have this new approach confirmed by governments. The NGOs will have to go into a direct dialog with national governments, and in this dialog the reports from UNDP and World Bank will provide serious arguments.

INFORSE will stimulate all members to go into the dialog and will try to coordinate the activities to ensure that steps are taken towards sustainable development.

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Sustainable Energy News
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ISSUE #29 (684KB) 16 pages (2000-05-01)
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