A World Renewable Energy Programme Could Prevent Climate Change
and Eliminate Worries about Peak Oil
By Rob Wheeler
UN Representative, Global Ecovillage Network and Association of World Citizens
One of the key recommendations in the Secretary General’s Report for CSD15 is that the World Solar
Programme should be re-established as a World Renewable Energy Programme. Such a Programme could thus serve as a primary means through which the agreed outcomes of CSD15 will in fact be implemented.
In 1991 the World Watch Institute estimated that global carbon emissions would have to be reduced to about 1 billion tons annually, or about one sixth of what was then being produced, in order to prevent climate change. However, they also suggested that auto fuel economy could be doubled, the efficiency of lighting systems tripled, and heating and cooling loads reduced by 75% with no additional technical breakthroughs. Indeed, most of these gains could still be made today. In fact, a comprehensive program for energy efficiency could have saved the Third World $30 billion a year and have eliminated the need for 500,000 megawatts of power by 2025. It will thus be a tragedy if such savings are still not made.
We also knew fifteen years ago that similar gains could be made with renewable energy. The US Department of Energy estimated in 1990 that the potential annual renewable resources in the US were more than 10 times its total recoverable fossil and nuclear fuel reserves. Now, 15 years later the world community has finally come to accept the truth of the challenges that we are facing and the opportunities that still lie in front of us, if only we will take them.
Hopefully, the UN Member States will thus take advantage of the recommendation to develop a World Renewable Energy Programme which could thus include an overall framework proposal incorporating the agreed goals and activities of CSD15. Thus the delegates should come prepared to work out the specifics, during CSD 15, for how the World Renewable Energy Programme can and will include specific means and mechanisms to ensure that the agreements made at CSD15 will be implemented.
Such a framework proposal should be based upon such elements as Felix Dodds mentioned in an article in SDIN’s Taking Issue on Day 2. It must thus be based on agreed priorities; identify problems and needs that must be addressed and filled; identify programme activities to be carried out at all levels –
local to global; indicate whom must implement each aspect of the Programme; and set a timetable and targets at 2, 5, 10, and 15 year intervals to ensure accountability for action, etc.
The World Solar Programme was initiated in 1996, as an outcome of the World Solar Summit, with a good deal of interest and political support. Unfortunately, however, a number of problems plagued the Programme including insufficient funding, inadequate staffing levels, lack of a specific action plan, inability to involve many of the anticipated UN agencies, etc. as was documented in an evaluation that was completed after the first five years in 2002. These problems must thus be rectified in any new Programme.
In order to ensure that the World Renewable Energy Programme (WREP) is as successful as possible, and will meet urgent needs, the goals and activities of the WREP must first be defined and agreed upon. The fundamental goal must thus be to assist all countries, and indeed the world, in making a rapid transition to a fully renewable energy future where all peoples have access to clean and sustainable
energy services. This must thus include programme activities that support Research, Development, and Marketing of Renewable Technologies along with Energy Conservation and Efficiency. It must also include Capacity Building and the development of Expertise in the use and application of Renewable Technologies, along with the ability to expand the Solar Villages that have been demonstrated in many places, so that all communities can participate in this program.
In addition, all schools throughout the world should be encouraged to study and teach about the World Renewable Energy Programme and how their country and community can be a part of it. This could be done through the Education for Sustainable Development Programs and Partnerships; and a UN or UNESCO office should be given the responsibility and resources to coordinate this effort. A specific website or web section must be created that is devoted exclusively to the development and activities of the World Renewable Energy Programme. It would be best if this is an interactive website, where all of the program activities can be listed by the participants, that includes a description of the commitments and activities of the participating agencies, and where the general public can discuss and read about both the establishment of the World Renewable Energy Programme and what is being done to make a transition to a renewable energy future.
Second, one of the primary problems that was identified was that an Action Plan wasn’t developed to ensure that the program goals were met and the activities implemented; and the intended agencies were never contacted and enrolled in the Programme. Thus, a specific team must be put in place, under the leadership of a designated Task Manager, whose primary responsibility would be to first develop and then to implement a specific Action Plan. And a World Renewable Energy Commission should be established to work with the UNESCO Task Manager and Team to develop and ensure that the Action Plan is fully implemented.
Third, sufficient support must be included to ensure that the goals and objectives will be met. Specific commitments must be made and agreed to at CSD15 to ensure that the needed financial and other resources will be made available. The amount of money needed to meet the programme goals at national, regional, and global levels must also be determined. This should be based on how many people will need to be trained; how many Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) will need to be established; what it will cost to fund research, development, and capacity building; etc in order to ensure that all peoples have access to renewable forms of energy. In addition, UNESCO should estimate how much money it will need to effectively coordinate and oversee the program.
The World Renewable Energy Programme could also provide a great service, if the means were put in place, to use it to integrate the UN Energy Partnership Initiatives, along with the work of national and international agencies. A strategy must be developed to ensure that the role and participation of each of these partner organizations is determined and on-going efforts to develop more effective partnerships are made - until all peoples have adequate access to renewable energy and we are well on the way toward making a rapid transition to a renewable energy future.
It could also be agreed that the National Frameworks on Sustainable Production and Consumption and the National Strategies for Sustainability include a specific plan for making a transition to an energy efficient and renewable energy future as a primary component of the World Renewable Energy Programme; and this should thus be included as a key goal within the CSD15 Outcome Document. In addition, a specific process should be included to support governments in, and to ensure that they do phase out, unsustainable subsidies and replace them with policies that will ensure that all costs are included in the production and use of energy.
The United Nations and the Commission on Sustainable Development must take advantage of this
opportunity to create a World Renewable Energy Programme and to take some very real steps towards
solving our energy problems.