By Desmond Davies –
London, June 28, GNA – Countries around the world where the livelihoods of people
depend on fossil
energy should not lose the chance of development by restricting their use of
fossil fuels, a UN official has said.
Olga Algayerova, the
Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), was
addressing a UNECE Ministerial Conference on meeting the challenge of
sustainable energy in Astana, Kazakhstan recently.
She echoed the call
by the Africa Progress Panel (APP) in March this year, urging African
governments to use fossil fuels – especially with the continent’s large endowment
of coal to bridge Africa’s huge energy gap.
Ms Algayerova said:
“We must also recognise that 80 per cent of today’s energy is fossil-based.
“There is no
plausible scenario in which fossil’s share of energy falls below 40 per cent by
2050, even in a two-degree scenario,” she said, referring to global warming
“Many countries, and
the livelihoods of many people, depend on fossil energy and we cannot expect
them to abandon their quality of life ambitions”, Ms Algayerova said, adding,
“Our challenge is complex.”
Currently, the UN
Regional Economic Commissions, including the Economic Commission for Africa,
have been helping national governments to meet the objectives of the 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Experts say there
are gaps between current actions and agreed commitments to the Agenda for
Sustainable Development while in the case of climate change present actions are
way behind the actual needs that must be met to reach the desired outcomes.
Ms Algayerova noted that the 50-year average temperature for each month had been rising steadily since 1964.
“Climate change is not a new problem.” she said.
“We just were not
aware of it.”
Ms Algayerova added:
“By 2050, the world’s population might reach nine billion, of whom 70 per cent
will live in cities.
“That is the
equivalent of adding 235 cities the size of greater Paris to the planet and
clearly, getting the energy system and cities right is critical.”
She pointed noted
that energy underpinned the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which
was central to the quality of life.
“Therefore, our objective, wherever we are, is to enhance the quality of life of our citizens,” Ms Algayerova said.
In Africa over 600 million people lack access to electricity and the figure is rising.
Former UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan, who chairs the APP, said in March: “Africa’s energy deficit
continues to stifle economic growth, job creation, agricultural transformation,
and improvements in health and education.
Development Goal 7, on energy, is a pre-condition for achieving many of the
He added: “As our
report clearly states, the cost of transitioning to renewables may be prohibitively
high in the short term – especially for countries that use their sizeable
endowment of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy.
“What we are
advocating is that African governments harness every available energy option,
in as cost-effective and technologically efficient manner as possible, so that
no one is left behind.
“Each country needs
to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that
works best for its own needs.”
At that UNECE
meeting, Ms Algayerova spoke of advanced technology that could now help reduce
carbon emissions from fossil, adding: “ do not have the luxury of choice in
policy or technology.
“Every technology has an important role to play in the future energy system.
“Not only the
obvious technologies like energy efficiency and renewables, but also advanced
fossil technology, carbon capture and storage, and nuclear power.
rational policies must guide the deployment of these technologies in service of
the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement,” she added.
“If we optimise the
management of the fossil system from source to use, we would make an
extraordinary near-term contribution, not to mention improve energy security,”
Ms Algayerova noted.
She called for
countries to work together to meet the challenge presented by the 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, adding that countries were
committed to both and had put together national plans.
“We must recognise
the perspectives and the drivers of the others and realise that there is not
one single approach, Ms Algayerova said and added, “What truly matters is that
the collective outcome delivers the needed results, with each player doing its
It was in the same
light that the APP report described the kind of policies and investments needed
to support the ambitious new public and private initiatives now under way that
aim to increase energy access swiftly across Africa, especially the New Deal on
Energy for Africa, spearheaded by the African Development Bank.
“As our new report shows, where there is good leadership, there are excellent prospects for energy transition,” Mr. Annan had said.
“We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit.
“Now we must focus on implementation, because the time for excuses is over and it is time for action”.
In Astana, Ms
Algayerova acknowledged that the energy industry “has succeeded in raising the
quality of life around the word, most notably in the advanced economies but
even in the developing world”.
“Yet, energy today is a commodity business in which we produce and deliver cubic metres of natural gas, litres of petrol, kilowatts of electricity, tons of coal.
“Energy industry players earn their returns by producing and selling more.
“But perhaps, what is needed for true sustainability is to reinvent the energy industry as a service industry, or as a complex of service industries, to unleash energy productivity.”