The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has called for energy security and sustainable development amid rising concerns that rising fuel prices are hurting the poor and low-income groups.
The UN's Asia-Pacific body has called on regional governments to implement sustainable energy plans
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), has put energy security at the centre of the regional development debate, as pressures from record-high fuel costs and food prices mount on regional economies.
In its report on energy security and sustainable development, released to coincide with a ministerial commission session, ESCAP says the aim is to ensure regional energy policies for growth and environmental sustainability.
It also warns that the heavy dependency on fossil fuels is aggravating the region’s economic vulnerability. Fossil fuel consumption is expected to remain very high, reaching 80 percent in 2030.
Investment in energy-related infrastructure is expected to reach nine trillion US dollars if steps to improve efficiencies are not taken. If such steps are taken, the figure could fall to 8.3 trillion dollars
UN ESCAP executive secretary, Noeleen Heyzer, said whilst presenting the report in Bangkok that the challenge faced was “in bringing forth inclusive and sustainable development in the region.”
She added that the “recent hike in oil prices” as well as “the whole issue of climate change” were very much linked with energy production and consumption and the use of fossil fuel.”
Since 1980, the use of primary energy in the Asia-Pacific region has doubled -- pushed by economic growth, massive investment in infrastructure, construction and rising population numbers. Heyzer said ESCAP wanted to address the following questions:
“How do we improve energy efficiency especially on the demand-side management? How do we reduce wastage from industry, from transport, from agriculture? How do we enhance renewable energy and how do we build up a greater infrastructure that is based on fairer access and distribution of the energy system?”
Heyzer stated that the implications of climate change and the energy crisis were huge for the Asia-Pacific region, which is already home to over 600 million of the world’s poorest people.
Wise use of resources
Thailand’s Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, in his opening address to ministers and delegates attending the ministerial session, called for care in the future.
“We need to pay attention to environmental sustainability and use natural resources wisely,” he said, “while maintaining sound economic growth. We should work to safeguard the region’s great wealth of biodiversity that is being threatened and include this in our national plans.”
ESCAP’s report says very bluntly that the Asia-Pacific region can no longer afford to maintain its current unsustainable use of energy and still ensure economic growth. It calls for more controlled and energy-efficient consumption in residential, commercial and industrial use.
ESCAP also appealed to the private sector, along with regional governments, to bring about the efficiencies. Over the weekend, private sector representatives and officials met in Bangkok to discuss the issue of energy security. On Monday, the ministerial round table also examined policy options for the public and private sectors.