A pledge to promote renewable energy

Senior officials gathering at the world's biggest meeting on renewable energy have pledged to boost the share of solar, wind and other clean sources.

    Interest in renewables, like solar energy, has surged recently

    Senior officials from 154 countries vowed in Bonn on Friday to "substantially increase with a sense of urgency" the share of renewables in meeting world energy needs. 

    "Renewable energies, combined with increased energy efficiency, will become a most important and widely available source of energy and will offer new opportunities for cooperation among all countries," they said. 

    The communique, described as a political declaration, did not provide a timetable or set any other specific targets. 

    Delegates said this was a concession to the US, which faces the biggest bill of all for weaning its economy off oil and is an opponent to government intervention in the market place. 

    Tiny share

    The meeting also issued a document of policy guidelines and an "action plan" - a draft of 165 detailed promises by governments and corporations for promoting renewable sources. 

    "The sun has just cracked the horizon on the dawn of the renewable energy revolution"

    Steve Sawyer,
    Greenpeace International's
    political director

    Renewable energies comprise solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, wave and hydro power. 

    Today, they have just a tiny share of the world's energy mix. Much of the infant technology is still outgunned by fossil fuels, whose long reign has given them a huge cost edge in infrastructure, efficiency and lobbying power. 

    Interest in renewables has surged in light of this year's dramatic rise in oil prices, driven in part by fears over supplies from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. 

    'Big success'

    German Cooperation and Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said developing countries faced an estimated $60 billion increase in their oil bill, and this helped explain their support in Bonn. 

    "This conference was a success," she said. "There are sometimes in politics, big successes." 

    The four-day meeting, hosted by Germany, gathered around 3000 ministers or senior officials, corporate executives, energy users and green activists. 

    The declaration said countries were "committed to achieving tangible progress as well as substantive follow-up" and planned to "continue the high-level political dialogue begun in Bonn". 

    Green power

    Green activists, relentless foes of fossil fuels whose pollution is blamed for global warming, were ecstatic at the outcome. 

    Oil accounted for 38% of global 
    energy supplies in 2000

    They were delighted there would be monitoring of the action plan, thus setting a benchmark to which pledgers would be held accountable. 

    And, they believed, further meetings would guarantee that the cause of renewables would not wither away, as happened in the 1980s when oil prices tumbled and undercut green power. 

    "One of the main breakthroughs is that renewable energy, instead of being an odd technology in the corner, is now recognised as playing a major part of the world's energy future," said Jennifer Morgan, director of WWF's climate-change programme. 

    "The sun has just cracked the horizon on the dawn of the renewable energy revolution," said Greenpeace International's political director, Steve Sawyer. 

    But he stressed governments urgently had to give renewables help through tax breaks, regulatory support and political backing. 

    Huge task ahead

    Renewables contributed just 5% of world energy supplies in 2000, but accounted for 19% of electricity production, mainly through hydro plants, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA). 

    "We need a transformation of unprecedented scale
    and urgency"

    Margaret Beckett,
    Britain's secretary of state for Environment

    By comparison, oil accounted for 38% of energy supplies, coal and gas 50%, and nuclear 7%. 

    Margaret Beckett, Britain's secretary of state for the environment, said the task ahead was huge.

    Quoting IEA estimates that the world needed to invest 16 trillion dollars to meet its energy needs by 2030, she warned "we need a transformation of unprecedented scale and urgency" to give renewables a central role.



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