The 1997 review of the United Nations Conference on Environment
and Development (UNCED) is the first opportunity to examine progress made in
sustainable development. UNCED drew international attention to linkages between
environment and economic development, and underscored how the sustainable use of
natural resources is an essential element of any international development
strategy that addresses the needs of present and future generations.
One of the main goals of the United Nations Development
Programme is to lend support to the entire UN System to become a unified and
powerful force for sustainable human development. For UNDP, sustainable human
development means focusing efforts in four key areas: eradicating poverty,
increasing womens role in development, job creation, and protecting and
regenerating the environment. Energy production and consumption are closely
linked to these issues, and to reach the objectives established by the UN
requires major changes in the approach to energy. Energy is an essential
instrument to meet basic human needs.
The importance of energy in sustainable development clearly
emerged at Rio. However, no integrated action programme in the field of energy
was agreed upon at the Rio Conference in 1992. The essential linkages between
energy and socio-economic development were not approached in an integrated
fashion. As a result the recommendations concerning energy and development
remain dispersed. Global consensus was reached with regard to the important,
energy-related issues of climate change and acidification.
Shedding light and focusing international attention on the
critical importance of energy to sustainable human development is UNDPs
only objective in preparing Energy After Rio: Prospects and Challenges, upon
which this Executive Summary is based. The current patterns of energy production
and use, which shape the development process internationally, are unsustainable
and have become more so since Rio. In developing countries, energy financing as
well as production and consumption patterns increasingly impede national
development processes, and will continue to do so, unless new approaches are
Today, an estimated 2 billion people worldwide lack access to
modern energy services. Though we know that energy is absolutely essential for
development, little international attention has been devoted to this relation.
Agenda 21 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.
UNDP, through its Initiative on Sustainable Energy, is assisting programme
countries to reflect these objectives in national energy policies, investment
plans and sustainable development strategies. Change, however, must go beyond
aid policies and be reflected in international business, investment, trade,
public and private sector policies and decisions.
What must now be done? A more direct, and dynamic debate on the
essential linkages between energy and socio-economic development is needed,
followed by translation into action, especially in the short term, of the
objectives of sustainable energy to achieve sustainable human development.
On behalf of UNDP, I hope that this Executive Summary can serve
to foster the international debate and consensus process concerning the
importance of sustainable energy and refocus international commitment on these
critical issues during the 1997 Review of Rio. The authors of this volume
describe the important links between energy and development and suggest pathways
that will allow energy to be used in ways that improve peoples lives. This
is at the heart of sustainable human development and, as we enter the next
millennium, is one of the key global issues that will challenge all nations.
I congratulate the authors and contributors on their efforts,
and am confident that this Executive Summary will be an important catalyst for
decision-makers, policy-makers, academics, the international development
community, NGOs and the media in highlighting the importance of energy for
achieving sustainable human development.
James Gustave Speth, Administrator
New York, January