Renewables’ role reiterated at UAE pow wow

The future of energy production - and the role of renewables in particular - has been high up the agenda at the world's largest ever gathering of environment ministers.

The United Arab Emirates are playing host to UNEP’s Global Ministerial Environment Forum, a top-level get together of experts and policy makers which has attracted environment ministers from over 130 countries.

At the forum UN secretary general Kofi Annan, was awarded the Zayed Prize for the Environment and donated the £1 million purse to establish a fund for sustainable development in Africa.

He also used his acceptance speech to reiterate the importance of weaning the world off oil and argued there was no reason why the oil-rich Arab states could not continue to play the lead role on the world stage when it came to energy production by leading a renewables revolution.

“The world remains perilously wedded to oil and other fossil fuels,” he told delegates.

“Let us be clear what is at stake: the carbon-based economy is like an uncontrolled experiment with the global climate, with serious risks for ecosystems, business and human health.

“We must look ahead, beyond the finite life of fossil fuels, and promote clean, alternative, renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and biofuel.

“The soaring demand for oil is concentrating the minds of the world as never before. Today’s high oil prices make the economic and environmental arguments even more mutually supportive.

“This country [the UAE] and this region are well placed to spearhead the effort.

“Oil-rich countries can invest in new technologies and in the transfer of existing ones to poorer countries. Doing so would be prudent self interest as well as a mark of solidarity with those less well off.

“It would be a breath of fresh air for the planet. The Middle East was the main energy supplier of the last century.

“I hope that through your investments and leadership, you will become a primary source of alternative energy in this one.”

The UN’s forum has also been used as the platform to launch report that for calls for more emphasis to be put on renewables in the energy mix.

Though it will come as a surprise to no-one that renewables should play a part in efforts to reduce emissions, Changing Climates, the Role of Renewable Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World brings together strong economic and scientific evidence.

The Renewable Energy Policy Network’s report cites an emerging consensus in both the scientific and political communities that a global warming limit of 2C above pre-industrial levels can avoid the most serious climate change threats.

This can only be achieved with a mix of measures, including a larger share of the world’s US$60 trillion energy markets for renewables, it says.

The report’s lead author, John Christensen from the UNEP Risoe Centre on Climate, Energy and Sustainable Development, said: “Many renewable energy technologies have moved from being a passion for the dedicated few to a major economic sector attracting large industrial companies and financial institutions.

“Although there are many good political, economic and social reasons for stimulating a more rapid development of renewable energy – not the least of which is climate change – the sector is hampered by a number of market distortions and institutional, financial, and economic barriers.

“Using economic policy instruments, such as renewable energy targets and tax incentives can be an effective strategy to stimulate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in energy markets that are increasingly deregulated and market orientated.”

By Sam Bond

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