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close this bookEnergy after Rio - Prospects and Challenges - Executive Summary (UNDP, 1997, 38 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentForeword
View the documentNotes on the Authors and Contributors
View the documentAbstract
View the document1. Introduction
Open this folder and view contents2. Energy and Major Global Issues
Open this folder and view contents3. New Opportunities in Energy Demand, Supply and Systems
Open this folder and view contents4. Sustainable Strategies
View the document5. Making It Happen: Energy for Sustainable Development
View the documentGlossary of Abbreviations


In the 1990’s, the UN sponsored a series of major Conferences on issues of global significance. Poverty and development, environment, population, women, and the human habitat have been discussed, and in each of these areas agreements on objectives and agendas for action have been reached. These all contain elements linked to energy as it affects people’s lives.

In this contribution to the preparatory process leading up to the June 1997 General Assembly Special Session for the review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21, UNDP analyses the multi-dimensional nature of the relationship between energy and the issues addressed at the major UN Conferences.

Energy’s critical linkages to poverty and development including gender disparity, population growth and food security; environment including health impacts, acidification, climate change and land degradation; the economy including investment, foreign exchange and trade impacts; and security concerns such as national access to energy supplies and nuclear proliferation, are analysed. From this it is evident that energy is not a sectoral issue but is vitally related to numerous dimensions of development.

The first finding is that current patterns of the production, distribution and use of energy are not sustainable. Based on present trends and policies related to energy, the objectives established and agreed upon at the Conferences cannot be achieved. This applies to poverty eradication as well as protection of the environment. Current unsustainable approaches to energy are a barrier to sustainable socio-economic development.

The options to reorient the development of the world energy system to help meet global objectives are analysed. Three major areas are identified: (i) more efficient use of energy, especially at the point of end-use, (ii) increased utilisation of modernised renewable sources of energy, and (iii) making full use of the next generation of technologies to utilise fossil fuels. It is indicated that the prospects in these areas are sufficiently promising to support a major reorientation of world energy system developments. If such a reorientation were to take place, energy can become an instrument for sustainable development. An integrated approach focusing on the level of energy services provided to impact people’s living conditions, economic development, environmental quality and geostrategic security is advanced.

Such a reorientation is essential, if the goals and commitments reached at the major Conferences are to be met.

The necessary reorientation will not happen by itself, under present rules, regulations and economic frameworks. Currently large subsidies are given to conventional sources of energy and environmental costs are not reflected in market prices. Crucial research and development efforts are being reduced and market introduction of new technologies faces a number of barriers. There is a vital need to focus attention on how public and private interests can be mobilised to formulate and implement the legal, institutional as well as fiscal frameworks required to promote sustainable energy. This requires a public sector-led undertaking, with important contributions from the private sector and civil society at large. It requires a renewed and action-oriented response from the international community.