Sumario: September 1, 2002: European Union launches major energy partnership initiative at World Summit (Johannesburg)
The European Union today launched a major partnership initiative on energy aimed at eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development. The EU Energy Initiative was launched at a special event during the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSSD) in Johannesburg by Danish Prime Minister and current EU President, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Poul Nielson.
Two billion people are currently 'energy poor'. This initiative aims to improve their access to adequate, affordable and sustainable energy services - an essential move if the Millennium Development Goals for reducing poverty are to be achieved. The partnerships that will result will provide a platform for increasing the efficiency of the EU's already considerable energy-related activities in the developing world.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said: "We believe that the shortest route to a cleaner environment and sustainable development is to raise standards of living in the developing countries. Growth can give us the additional means and technology to lift people out of poverty and at the same time protect our environment. This is exactly what the EU Energy Initiative is all about. It is about fighting poverty, promoting economic growth, increasing aid and protecting our environment. We all share the objective of halving the number of poor people by 2015. Improved access to energy will be key to achieving this."
Commissioner Nielson added: "Africa's energy consumption is largely based on fuel wood, collected by hand and transported over increasing distances. This adds to deforestation, desertification, indoor air pollution and poverty. Unless cost-efficient and more-environment friendly alternatives are developed, energy will be a major brake on economic growth and sustainable development in Africa."
Ownership of the partnership activities by developing countries will be key to the partnerships' success. Developing country governments have the central role in this. The EU will offer support, in close collaboration with the private sector, financing organizations and civil society.
The Energy Initiative is one of the so-called "Type II" initiatives being launched by the EU at the World Summit. It demonstrates the political will of the EU Member States and the European Commission to raise the profile of energy and poverty in their development co-operation efforts. The EU collectively provides around €700 million per year in energy-related development assistance and this amount could increase in coming years if requests from developing countries grow, as anticipated.
European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "Partnership activities should fully recognize the variety of situations in developing countries. The Commission believes that the EU's political priorities of increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy can bring benefits to the developing world. The EU will also work with other activities and initiatives launched at the WSSD where these offer clear benefits for people in developing countries."
Developing countries' initial response to the EU Energy Initiative has been very positive. In the run-up to the WSSD, 17 developing countries and two regional organizations, as well as private sector and civil society organizations, have associated themselves with the initiative. The EU is committed to turning this interest into concrete, multi-stakeholder partnerships that will lead to action at the national, sub-regional or regional levels. The focus will be on institutional capacity-building as well as technical assistance to support the development of energy policies and to encourage investment in sustainable energy.
Close involvement of financing organizations, the private sector and civil society will be essential at an early stage in defining partnerships. This will attract additional resources from the private sector and civil society, in the form of capital, technology and human resources.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen added: "The EU has long insisted that there should be strong links between the political commitments made at the Johannesburg summit and partnership initiatives such as this. Our Energy Initiative illustrates how partnerships can implement the summit's goals."
Ministers and senior figures from the EU and developing countries as well as high-level representatives from the UN, business and civil society participated in the launch event for the Initiative.