Enviromental: International move on renewables

One of the sticky points at last year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was the issue of renewable energies. At the centre of the dispute was whether the summit adopts targets for use of wind, solar, water and biomass as energy sources or not. The European Union (EU) led the charge for targets. States endowed with huge reserves of oil and coal were against internationally agreed targets on renewables.

The WSSD acknowledged the need to “substantially increase the global share of renewable energy sources with the objective of increasing its contribution to total energy supply”. A fuzzy compromise! Since then countries in favour of renewables have moved. In June 2004 an international conference will be held in Germany to “chart the way towards an expansion of renewable energies worldwide”.

Convened by the German government, the conference was announced at the 2002 Johannesburg summit by Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. It has the backing of 70 countries calling themselves the Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition (JREC). Since then 12 other countries including South Africa , Botswana and Congo have joined the coalition. At the conference in Bonn , governments, business and other international organisations are expected to announce commitments to use renewable energy sources.

As the conference is not a United Nations’ (UN) gathering, no international legally binding agreements are expected. Governments and “other stakeholders” are to voluntarily announce their activities in the field of renewable energies.

Besides national government representatives, parallel meetings of members of parliaments and provinces are planned. A “multi-stakeholder dialogue” is also planned where civil society organisations can air their views.

Advising the German government on the conference is an international steering committee made up of people from different governments, renewable energy industry, environmental organisations, international funding bodies and academics. Sandile Nogxina, the Director General of the Department of Minerals and Energy sits on the steering committee.

Whether the Bonn conference will be able to close the WSSD schism is something to be seen. As the conference organisers are trying to be inclusive, chances are that divisions that reared their heads in Johannesburg will re-emerge. But this time the JREC countries are keen to move forward with the emphasis on voluntary commitments.