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UNEP: Renewable and sustainable energy a critical issue for this millennium

Paris/Nairobi, 10 January 2001 - Accelerating the introduction of green "environmentally friendly" energy, such as solar, wind and wave power, is one of the most pressing issues facing mankind in the new millennium, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will tell a meeting on renewable energy today.

Green energy must be put at the heart of sustainable development if the threats of climate change and the need to tackle poverty and ill health in the developing world are to be truly addressed, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP will tell an audience in Paris.

"Sustainable development, or not cheating on your children, means things like ensuring our ever-growing cities function as stimulating and vibrant places to live and work; to ensuring that the poorest people in the world are not forced to chop down forests full of precious wildlife for wood to cook or keep warm," he will argue.

"I cannot frankly see how these problems can be overcome without the widespread introduction of non- or lesser-polluting forms of energy which conserve the planet's finite resources of coal, oil and other fossil fuels", he will say.

The views, to be delivered at a meeting of the G-8 Task Force on Renewable Energy, comes as ministers from an estimated ten African countries meet on 12 January at UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, to agree on a common position on sustainable energy use.

The ministers, who include Kenya's Minister for Energy, the Hon. Dr. Y.F.O Masakhalia, will submit their conclusions to the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development taking place in April.

Mr. Toepfer's exhortations also come in the run-up to UNEP's twenty-first session of its Governing Council in which ministers from around the world will meet in Nairobi from 5 to 9 February 2000.

Renewable and sustainable energy will be among the key issues on the Council's agenda.

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

UNEP believes that the reality of the promise of green and less-polluting energy schemes, able to bring heat and light to rural communities or help pump water to rural communities and rapidly expanding cities, may hinge on developing a pioneering network of advice centres across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

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

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

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

Note to Editors:

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

UNEP and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) will host an African High-level Regional Meeting on Energy and Sustainable Development from 10 to 13 January in Nairobi. Journalists are invited to attend the sessions.

For more information, please contact UNEP Spokesman, Mr. Tore J. Brevik at +254-2-623292; fax: 623927; email: tore.brevik@unep.org; or Nick Nuttall, Media Officer, at 254-2-623381; fax: 623692; email: nick.nuttall@unep.org

UNEP News Release 01/02