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Action needed to bring clean energy to poor areas

Urgent action needed to bring clean energy to poor areas – UN report

Despite some progress in controlling atmospheric pollutants such as lead, ozone-depleting substances and some greenhouse gasses, urgent action is needed to provide clean energy to reduce poverty, promote development and tackle climate change, according to a United Nations report released today.

“There have been major advances in areas where there has been international cooperation,” Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said as he introduced the report, “Trends in Sustainable Development,” at a UN Headquarters press conference.

Energy use continues to rise globally, the report found, but – due to greater efficiency and a shift to less energy intensive activities – energy consumption has grown at a slower rate than the world economy. And because of cleaner fuels, even fossil fuels, the rise in carbon dioxide emissions is less than the growth in energy consumption. Sulfur dioxide emissions have declined over the past 20 years because of cleaner technologies and greater use of low-sulfur fuels.

“This progress has occurred because governments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations have taken these challenges seriously,” JoAnne DiSano, Director of the UN Division for Sustainable Development, said.

Among the urgent problems that need to be tackled, she pointed to providing for the 1.6 billion people who lack access to electricity and the 2.4 billion who still use firewood or dung to cook and heat.

“We need reliable and clean energy for industrial and economic development, and if we are to address climate change, we need to implement solutions now,” Ms. DiSano said.

Cleaner technologies have contributed to reducing pollution, but have not addressed wider environmental problems, Mr. Ocampo said. For example, pollution from automobiles is spiking in many developing countries simply because of the explosion of car use.

In regard to climate change, he said that reductions in carbon dioxide emissions were not on track to meet the targets of the Kyoto Protocol in many industrial economies. But he noted current efforts underway to address this gap, including the negotiation of non-binding cooperation from non-signatories to the Kyoto pact such as the United States and Australia.

He also pointed out that there were many localities in the United States that had undertaken voluntary initiatives to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses.

The report is being released ahead of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development’s 1 to 12 May session, which is devoted to the linkages between energy for sustainable development, industrial development, atmospheric pollution and climate change.

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