|Energy as an Instrument for Socio-economic Development (UNDP, 1995, 114 p.)|
One of the main goals of the United Nations Development Programme is to help the entire UN system become a unified and powerful force for sustainable human development.
Sustainable human development is people-centered development. It generates economic growth and equitably distributes the fruits of that growth. It empowers people, expands their choices and opportunities, and involves them in decisions that shape their lives.
For UNDP, sustainable human development means focusing resources on four key areas: eradicating poverty, increasing women's role in development, providing people with income-earning opportunities, and protecting and regenerating the environment.
Initiatives in the energy sector are an important means to achieve sustainable human development. After all, as countries develop, their energy-service needs evolve and expand. And, the production and consumption of energy has a tremendous impact on economies, environments and industrial development. Energy should, therefore, be taken into account in any development strategy.
If current patterns of energy production, distribution and consumption continue, progress in a number of countries could slow dramatically, or even come to a halt. We must, therefore, reconsider the way we use energy. This is not only important for developing countries, but for industrialized ones as well. The challenges before us will not be met by making minor adjustments to countries' conventional energy systems. Instead, a major shift away from business-as-usual is needed.
A number of ideas for this shift were presented to the international community at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. An action agenda - known as "Agenda 21" - issued at the conclusion of the conference, called on nations to find more efficient systems for producing, distributing and consuming energy, and for greater reliance on environmentally sound energy systems, with special emphasis on renewable sources of energy.
Renewable energy is extremely important to development because it can offer people income-earning opportunities. In Brazil, for example, a programme to produce ethanol from sugar cane helped create about 700,000 jobs in rural areas. The Brazilian example shows how an innovative energy strategy can be instrumental in achieving a country's goals for sustainable human development.
UNDP, especially through its Initiative on Sustainable Energy, is helping countries implement national energy policies that support their development strategies. This initiative is demonstrating how the energy sector can be a tool for development by giving people income-earning opportunities, building up government institutions' capacities for protecting the environment and increasing energy efficiency, and accelerating technological development. UNDP, which has funded many energy-development projects, continues to formulate new ways to address this important issue.
The authors of this volume describe the important links between energy and development, and show how energy can be used in ways that improve people's lives. Their work, therefore, contributes to the global debate on energy and offers us insights into the complexity of the challenges we face. I congratulate their effort and am confident that it will benefit decision-makers, policy-makers, academics, and the international development community.
James Gustave Speth
New York, July 1995