Energy verdict for Brazilian Rio+20 text

In their new outcome text and in their prescribed format for negotiations over coming days, the Brazilian hosts have been accused of picking the winners for Rio+20 (oceans and sustainable development goals). The rest will get no more than a polite nod of textual recognition.

The energy section of the new text has been helpfully posted by Glen Wright, an Australian PhD student. It’s not clear how Glen got hold of it, or even what he’s doing in Rio.

Alas, this text looks authentic – here’s the dreaded and impotent “note” wording:

We note the launching of the initiative by the Secretary General on “Sustainable Energy for All”, which focus on access to energy, energy efficiency and renewable energies.

Worse still, the previous draft’s reference to mobilizing international financial resources for the initiative has been deleted.

Elsewhere in the energy section, the news is not so bad. In particular, two important and reasonably strong sentences on universal access that the US wanted to delete have been retained:

We commit to facilitate support for access to these services by 1.4 billion people worldwide who are currently without these services….. We emphasize the need to take further action to improve this situation, including by mobilizing adequate financial resources.

Less encouraging for some observers is the retention of “cleaner fossil fuel technologies” within the range of desirable methodologies for the pursuit of universal access. And the US won out on the deletion of “technology” as a target of incentives for R&D in developing countries.

Overall it looks as though we’re seeing a shift of emphasis away from Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy For All initiative in favour the more focused goal for universal access to modern energy services. This may be a Brazilian answer to those critics of Rio+20 who perceive a bias towards the environmental concerns of the rich at the expense of the needs of the poor.

This is also the direction that I feel more comfortable with. Who can challenge the urgent need of the poor to electricity and safe cooking? Why bundle this up with global targets for energy efficiency and the use of renewables which, however desirable, are so much more contentious in the current political climate?


this article was first published by OneWorld UK