Achim Steiner's speech at the TICAD Conference on Energy and Environment for Sustainable Development
Nairobi, 22 March 2007 - Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues, Friends,
Thank you for allowing me to address this important meeting on energy and the environment'important because of the link to poverty eradication, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development of Africa's economy.
May I also commend the Government of Japan for initiating and supporting the TICAD since 1993 and for its pledge to significantly increase Official Development Aid to Africa.
Fulfilling the promises of the past - from the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 to the present day - is one of the main routes to building trust between the developing and developed world.
Trust so urgently needed if we are to rise to the challenges of our age - not least climate change and completing the Doha trade negotiations round.
Ladies ad Gentlemen,
We know the figures for Africa. If we exclude South Africa and Egypt, no more 20 per cent of the population - and in some countries as little as five per cent - have direct access to electricity. (in rural areas it falls to as little as two percent).
An estimated 60 to 90 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on biomass with all the impacts on human health and ecosystems like forests.
But there are other possibilities for Africa's energy future - some just emerging, others within the Continent's grasp if we look beyond the short term, if we dare to dream.
An hour's drive from Gigiri where meet today is the Great Rift Valley where human-kind emerged and whose beautiful and haunting landscape is celebrated by visitors from across the world.
It is also a source of huge energy potential for East Africa right up to Djibouti.
For under the ground are, geologically-speaking, young hot rock rocks able to generate steam and thus turn electricity-generating turbines.
For more than 20 years, Kenya has harvested some of this potential via a 45 MW geothermal power station Olkaria.
If similar stations could be constructed up the Rift and at other suitable hot rock sites, considerable amounts of clean and indigenous electricity could be generated--by some estimates Africa has a geothermal potential of up to 7,000 MW.
UNEP and the World Bank, through a $17 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), are to underwrite the risks of drilling for steam in order to over come some of the basic technical and financial hurdles.
It has not been an easy genesis for geothermal in Africa, as those in the process know but I think we are now getting there.
Geothermal is one possibility. Last year, as part of the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, UNEP issued its Global Deserts Outlook.
Among the many facts and figures was a fascinating one. According to some experts an area 800 by 800 km of a desert such as the Sahara could capture enough solar energy to generate all the world's electricity needs and more.
If one had suggested this a few decades, even a few years ago, perhaps he or she would have been packed off to the sanatorium for a quiet retirement from the travails of the real world.
But ladies and gentlemen, pause for a moment and reflect on the recent striking growth of renewable and clean energy technology.
According to Clean Edge, one market authority, annual revenues from investments in wind power, photovoltaics, biofuels and fuel cells grew by close to 40 per cent between 2005 and 2006 climbing to $55 billion.
It is estimated that the market for these four technologies could stand at over $225 billion by 2016.
Africa should and must be part of this development.
Africa is also rich in wind. Indeed not far from here, in the Ngong Hills over which many delegates will have flown as they landed in Nairobi there is estimated to be some 50 MW of wind power across the Continent significant amounts more.
And what about biofuels, the current hot topic?
Biofuels-- from ethanol to oils-- could play an important role in boosting farmers' incomes, diversifying rural economies and supplying air and climate-friendly fuels for local and export markets.
By 2020, around a fifth of mineral oils consumed world-wide could be substituted by bio-fuels.
UNEP, in partnership with others and through fora like the G8-initiated Global Bioenergy Partnership, is looking to the norms and standards that will hopefully guarantee a global but also sustainable biofuels market.
Brazil, which is actively seeking bilateral biofuel partnerships in Africa, is the pioneer. It dared to dream.
Let me share something I learnt on a recent visit to Brasilia (and I hope I do not offend my colleagues here from the World Bank).
But when Brazil decided to invest in sugar cane ethanol production the World Bank told them it was a fool�s errand.
Yes, they spent $25 billion in subsidies. But 30 years on Brazil has saved $50 billion on the oil import bill.
At the same time Brazil has developed almost an entire car fleet in part fueled by ethanol alongside a national distribution network and automotive Flex fuel technology that is the envy of the world.
Brazil is now being actively courted by countries like the United States and others to increase ethanol exports in order to meet new fuel and climate change targets.
So Brazil dared to dream and so perhaps the idea of the Sahara becoming the power house of the planet is not so far fetched as it might seem.
Indeed some experts and entrepreneurs believe the electricity generated in deserts like the Sahara could be used not for export but to assist in realizing the next generation of clean fuel�namely a global hydrogen economy
Ladies and gentlemen, driving the growth of renewable energy and cleaner energy generation are the new realities of rising oil prices and energy security.
And the overwhelming scientific consensus-- and now the political consensus-- that unless we act on climate change we face an economically and socially disruptive future.
The next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be released in Brussels on April 6.
It will underline the costs of inaction in terms of the damage to natural assets like forests to water supplies (incidentally today is World Water Day�the theme is water scarcity).
The internationally agreed solution is the UN Framework Convention�s Kyoto Protocol.
Alongside energy security and concerns about rising oil prices, it too is driving interest in clean energy and renewables via new and dynamic carbon markets unthinkable only a few years ago.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for example is likely to generate flows from the North to the South of some $100 billion over the coming years--funds for afforestation and reforestation and for cleaner, greener, energy projects.
Currently the lion�s share of such projects is being secured by the more rapidly developing economies of Brazil, China, India and South Africa.
But UNEP and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) mean to change this by making it more inclusive.
At the last climate convention meeting, held in this very campus at the end of 2006, our two agencies established an initiative to build CDM access capacity for developing countries with a focus on Africa.
The initiative, with funding from countries including Spain, is now active in several countries in Africa and I would urge other countries to come forward.
I would also urge a full, frank and forward-looking engagement by Africa in the various dialogues leading up to and including the climate convention meeting in Bali in December.
The expanding opportunities for modern energy investments, emerging as a result of the carbon markets, are predicated on deeper emission reductions post 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires.
The European Union has announced a 20 per cent greenhouse reduction by 2020 and a 30 per cent cut if others follow.
The G8+5 environment ministers meeting in Potsdam, Germany last week underlined the momentum clearly at work in 2007 to realize a future emission reductions regime.
But ladies and gentlemen, we are not there yet - we still have some way to go to build trust between the developed and developing world so that we can move as one.
Africa, with so much to lose if climate change is not addressed and so much to gain if it is, can and must be part of the solution for a fair and equitable post 2012 landscape.
Africa must find its voice over the coming crucial months and articulate not only the threats it faces from unbridled climate change and the urgency to act on both mitigation and adaptation.
But a voice that spells out Africa's important role in assisting developed and industrialized countries meet deeper emission reductions by providing a platform upon which investments in modern 21st century energy generation - both centralized and decentralized - can be made.