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[Energy]

September 4, 2002

European, Latin American and many other developing countries are using today's closing plenary to commit themselves to a voluntary alliance on renewable energy. Especially nerdish Daily Summiteers will remember that you first heard about this "coalition of the willing" when we interviewed EU Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström, just after she had to fold on the renewable energy target...

David Steven | 06:49 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

September 3, 2002

UK environment minister, Margaret Beckett provided a few more details on last night's controversial energy deal in this morning's press briefing.

The EU was told, she said, that "you can debate and discuss this for three more days, but at the end of three days, the outcome you'll get is the one you have now."

With the EU isolated and the "body language" suggesting the rest of the world was not budging, she claims the delegation had no choice but to give in.

More on this story as it happened here.

David Steven | 04:34 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


In the excitement on energy, it's worth remembering that the action plan is now concluded. Work is needed on the political declaration, but much of the summit's business is complete. Tomorrow we'll review what has been accomplished...

Earlier this evening, we posted a quick hello to new visitors, but this is now buried down the page. So - welcome, enjoy the site, tell your friends, and hit the comments to give us your reaction to the summit so far...

David Steven | 12:49 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

September 2, 2002

It's been a good fight this evening, with the EU and NGOs actively working with the media, while the US, developing countries, and business stayed out of the field.

Friends of the Earth have again shown themselves to be in the ascendant, as their spokeswoman, Kate Hampton, "owned" the issue, in the same way that Craig Bennett and Charles Secrett dominated discussion on corporate responsibility.

It was interesting to see the EU working so hard to get its story across. However, Daily Summit predicts that most of tomorrow's media will follow the NGO line and judge the summit a failure, with the agreement on energy the main evidence for the prosecution.

David Steven | 10:27 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


"We are bitterly angry that the OPEC countries, Japan and the United States have combined in this way to help wreck the world's environment and endanger the security of our common home," says Friends of the Earth in a quick-fire press release on tonight's energy decision.

"The deal is as stupid and self-destructive as the man who climbed into an oven and switched up the heat. The resulting text is so bad that those countries who care about the environment should simply refuse to have anything to do with it."

David Steven | 10:21 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


NGOs have been briefing that tonight's energy deal has the "fingers of the fossil fuel industry" all over it - so Daily Summit contacted Steve Lennon for comment.

Mr Lennon is Managing Director of Resources and Strategy for energy company, Eskom, and convenor of the business sector's Energy Conservation Group. "This is quite consistent with what the business sector has been saying. We are in favour of targets on renewable energy at a national level, but not negotiated global targets," he said.

"Our priority is to optimise what we have right now on the one hand, by improving access to energy using existing infrastructure. On the other, and in parallel, we are strongly in favour of developing the energy sources of the future."

Mr Lennon claimed that business had had a minor input into the negotiations and, indeed, Daily Summit was the first to inform him that a deal had been struck. "There is no business conspiracy on this issue," he said.

Daily Summit is sure that the energy industry has been influential on this issue - but suspects that the OPEC countries were by far the most effective lobbyists.

David Steven | 10:14 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


(Updated) Great excitement as the EU delegation - not wanting to leave the field to the NGOs - descended on the press room for an impromptu press conference to explain their capitulation on energy.

The EU Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström, rejected Daily Summit's suggestion that there had been a trade-off between sanitation and renewable energy, claiming that the EU had been left isolated and had no choice but to accept a result that was less than ideal.

The alternative would have been "to break up the whole summit," as the EU was isolated on energy in the same way the US had been on sanitation. However, she defended the agreed text, saying it showed a commitment to putting energy at the core of sustainable development and that it was a boost for renewable energy, albeit a small one.

Hans Christian Schmidt, Minister for the Environment, Denmark, concurred, adding that he thought the overall summit agreement had been successful, agreeing targets in areas observers had said would not be possible.

Both the Commissioner and the Minister underlined the EU's failure to win allies on this issue, with Ms Wallström implying that the EU, as the world's biggest donor, should have been able to bring more pressure to bear on the developing countries.

One campaigner was not impressed with EU negotiating targets. "They have failed as negotiators," he said. "They did not get their goal and if they worked for a business they would be fired."

However Ms Wallström sees a way forward through voluntary initiatives at a national and regional level, suggesting that the EU now intends to build a "coalition of the willing" on this issue.

David Steven | 09:52 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


More detail on energy (updated) - the agreed text aims to improve access to "reliable and affordable energy services," principally as a way of reducing poverty.

The text calls for action to develop "advanced, cleaner, more efficient, affordable and cost effective energy technologies, including fossil fuel technologies as well as renewable energy technologies, hydro included, and their transfer to developing countries on concessional terms."

It also demands action to "substantially increase the global share of renewable energy sources… recognizing the role of national and voluntary regional targets."

Why are NGO's furious?

First, because of the support for subsidies (concessional terms) for "cleaner…fossil fuel technologies" and hydro. Second, because there is no target for increasing the use of renewable energy. Third, because language on reducing subsidies for fossil fuels is very weak. And fourth, because some of the language may open a small window through which support for nuclear power can creep.

NGO anger is certainly genuine, but their shock is a little less convincing. Daily Summit picked up clear signals a week ago that the EU wouldn't hold out for renewable targets and gave greater priority to access to energy for the poor. We are also convinced that, at some deep level, there was a trade-off between the energy and sanitation issues…

David Steven | 09:18 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


A text on energy has been agreed, which has no target on renewables, and which is fairly permissive on subsidies for fossil fuels and large hydro-electric schemes. There is a hint that subsidies for nuclear power may be included, but the EU is seeking clarification that this is not the case.

The issue came down to a long fight between the US, OPEC, and Japan on one side, and the EU on the other - with the EU eventually caving after it apparently concluded that to hold out any longer would imperil the whole summit.

There is some suggestion that the EU traded a target on sanitation for the renewable energy target, as Daily Summit has been predicting all week. This was denied by the UK delegation this morning, however.

What is absolutely clear now is that NGOs will mount a concerted media campaign to paint the whole summit as a failure, and governments (most of whom seem pleased with the overall agreement) now stand little chance of getting their story across...

David Steven | 08:53 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


Energy has just been decided and the NGOs are going ballistic... More soon!

David Steven | 08:37 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


The talks on energy remain deadlocked, with NGOs confirming they now consider this "the icon for the success or failure of WSSD..."

David Steven | 08:16 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

August 31, 2002

Ronald Bailey asks what energy sources will fuel the 21st century in an article written for Reason magazine.

Daily Summit would add one point to his discussion of developing countries and renewable energy. The rural poor have a huge amount to gain from renewables, which will lead to more distributed patterns of energy generation in developing countries. Just as mobile telephony is hugely attractive in countries that haven't built fixed line telephone infrastructure, so solar and wind power is more economically viable in countries that are decades away from completing a "natonal grid." However, again as with cell phones, it is rich world demand that will drive down prices to levels that make these technologies accessible to the poor.

Interestingly, access to energy is one area where the EU is not pressing for a "target and timetable," although we understand it values progress on this issue much more highly that action on renewables (a card it either has, or is about to, throw away in the negotiations).

Why?

We asked the British delegation this in their daily press briefing and the answer went as follows: a realistic goal in some countries is merely to provide electricity to key nodes in the rural infrastructure, such as schools, clinics, and small businesses, often using renewable energy for the pragmatic reasons outlined above. A target to provide modern energy to xx% of people by 20yy cannot yet be achieved - but is a logical next step once progress begins to be made.

(See also this renewable energy interview.)

David Steven | 09:07 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

August 30, 2002

Today's Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports that global targets on renewable energy may be junked in favour of a much looser framework of local and national targets.

Daily Summit has also heard this rumour. The EU has been a champion of a global target, with the US, Australia, Japan and the OPEC countries among many opponenets.

We also hear that the EU fears it is fighting a losing battle and may be prepared to give on this issue in for return for other concessions...

David Steven | 10:42 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

August 27, 2002

Energy is emerging a pivotal issue, as we reported yesterday.

Now, according to Earth Negotiations Bulletin (which produces an excellent briefing on the minutiae of each day's negotiations), some delegates are suggesting that all climate change references are taken out of the summit text, with the the whole issue deferred for discussion at the scheduled meeting in the Kyoto process.

This, they believe, might be preferable to any public back-pedalling on commitments.

David Steven | 09:38 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

August 18, 2002

"Johannesburg matters," says Hamish McRae, "not because summits fix things – they may make them worse – but because they make us think."

Hamish thinks that energy may or may not become more scarce in the future; that climate change is probably not a good thing; that water may become scarce; and that "we are likely to lose several large mammal species and that the world will be a poorer place if our only memory of them is through nature films."

David Steven | 12:09 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |


 

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