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close this bookEnergy after Rio - Prospects and Challenges - Executive Summary (UNDP, 1997, 38 p.)
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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
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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 women’s 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 UNDP’s 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 adopted.

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 1997