unctad.org | UNCTAD-EnergyPact Conference - How emerging economies will green the World
Statement by Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
UNCTAD-EnergyPact Conference - How emerging economies will green the World
29 Nov 2011


Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I have the pleasure to welcome all of you to Geneva for the UNCTAD-EnergyPact Conference. UNCTAD is pleased to be able to contribute to the discussions to be held today as we firmly believe that energy security must be considered as part of an inclusive development agenda.

As today´s headlines are dominated by the continuing fallout from the Financial Crisis, most of us here are aware that the challenges ahead of us in order to transform the global economy in a way that is environmentally sustainable, while at the same time improving living conditions for a growing population, are likely to be far more complex. It is clear that sustainable energy will be at the heart of the solution.

This year the global population reached 7 billion, by 2050 it is estimated to reach beyond 9 million. All people will need access to modern, sustainable and efficient energy sources. However, according to recent figures by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2010 over 20 per cent of the global population (approximately 1.4 billion people) lacked access to electricity. Lack of access to reliable energy supplies is impeding the ability of a large number of developing countries to advance industrially, raising the costs for firms and organizations to engage in technological activities that are needed to promote structural change as well as economic and social development.

The United Nations High Level Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change has stressed the need to mobilize resources and accelerate efforts to promote access to energy for all. Creating an enabling environment to use and promote renewable energy technologies is a critical part of this effort, as recognized by the United Nations General Assembly when it declared 2012 as the "International year of sustainable energy for all". The initiative aims to not only ensure access to energy for all by the year 2030, but also to double both the rate of energy efficiency and the share of renewable energies in the global energy mix, to ensure that access to energy remains sustainable in the future.

Against this backdrop, and with the forthcoming Rio+20 Conference in mind, the discussions today will focus on how we can transition to an inclusive and development-centred green economy, considering specific issues such as urbanization, international investment and future forms of renewable and sustainable energy.

In some respects, a transition to a greener economy is already underway. Firms and consumers are increasingly supporting energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies, organic foods, sustainably produced biofuels and timber products, ecotourism, and fair-trade products. The demand for these products has lead, in some cases, to new sources of employment and increased economic opportunities, including for developing countries.

Renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines, as well as energy efficient lighting products, are among the green products seeing the sharpest rise in exports. Developing countries have made significant progress in supplying global markets with these products over the past decade, with their share rising from 24 per cent of world exports in 2002, to 53 per cent by 2009.

It is clear that scaling-up these and related developments will need much clearer and stronger signals and support from the international community. Under existing international environmental agreements developed countries are committed to substantially reducing the negative environmental impacts of their economies, although it is on the condition that their economic interests and living standards can be maintained.

However, we still face significant challenges in achieving a truly successful, politically feasible and economically viable transition to a green economy. Many developing countries lack the sufficient financial, technical and human capital needed to structurally transform their economies. Countries, be they developed or developing, have different capacities to make the transition to a green economy. Many developing countries, for example, still face the challenge of building their industrial capacity - a fundamental prerequisite for poverty reduction and equality in their societies - which will have a direct bearing on the pace at which they can reduce their reliance on the conventional energy sources. Many developing countries are further worried that the transition to a greener economy may constrain prospects for their economic growth and development, including by restricting access to world markets for their exports, due to non-tariff barriers and private standards linked to the environmental impact of traded goods and services. There are also related issues to consider, such as the ongoing debate about the financing mechanisms to support the large-scale investments needed to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. Indeed, failure to make progress on this front remains a persistent obstacle to a truly sustainable shift towards a greener global economy.

What is certain, is that international cooperation will be essential in providing developing countries with capacity building opportunities, research and development collaboration, technology knowledge transfer and financial assistance and investment (particularly low carbon investment), in order to achieve a successful transition. Whatever mechanisms are agreed to in order to support the transition to a green economy, must refrain from imposing new conditionalities on international trade and financial cooperation, and avoid a "one-size-fits-all" template that fails to account for countries´ different starting points and diverse development priorities. International economic and environmental agreements must also provide developing countries with sufficient policy space and flexibility to implement any rules or modalities that are adopted.

It goes without saying that national governments will have a pivotal role to play in shaping low carbon, high-growth paths, including appropriate policy to integrate and coordinate newer energy options within national industrial development strategies. Governments can play a key role in tipping the balance away from conventional energy sources towards clean and renewable energy by making such energy viable and by enabling enterprise development of newer sources of energy. Rethinking the role of industrial policy will be critical in these respects.

International trade also represents a powerful channel for spreading green economy gains among countries at the global level, by diffusing green goods, services, technologies and production methods among countries. The 1992 Rio Declaration and Chapter 2 of Agenda 21 acknowledged that trade can have a positive environmental impact, and therefore make an important contribution towards sustainable development. Twenty years on, the fundamental message remains that mutually supportive trade, environment and development policies are needed to promote sustainable development.

With supportive national policies and institutions in place, trade opportunities offered by an expanding global green economy can enhance economic growth and contribute significantly to national environmental and developmental objectives. This green growth should be inclusive; building developing countries´ human and productive capacities to enable them to participate in a global green economy and thereby stimulate economic diversification, generate employment for the poor, and increase access of the poor to basic services such as energy, water, housing, education, communications and transport.

As we approach the Rio+20 Conference we need to encourage the international community to increase the effectiveness of existing mechanisms and build consensus on how to achieve the transition to the green economy in a fair way, without discriminating against the development prospects of developing countries.

I wish you every success as you discuss these complex but vitally important issues during the course of the Conference.

Thank you.


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