International Network for Sustainable Energy (INFORSE)
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
Proposal for the Rio+20 UN Conference
Transition to Sustainable Energy
Must Be a Central Result of Rio+20
When the countries of the world meets again in Rio de Janeiro this coming June, 2012, 20 years
after the original UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), it is urgently
needed that the countries take up the issues that were discarded in 1992 and that are still imperative
for a sustainable development. The transition to sustainable energy2
is the most important of these
issues. It is increasingly evident from the climate science as well as from the depletion of the easier
accessible fossil energy resources that a fast energy transition is necessary. At the same time the
technological development has resulted in better technologies for the transition. Therefore the
transition can be done with known technologies, without significant sacrifices, and in parallel
with the elimination of poverty. It will also bring additional benefits such as improved
In the INFORSE network we have shown how a timely transition can be made in Northern
countries with high greenhouse gas emissions as well as in villages in the global South, where this
transition can be one of the steps on the way out of poverty.
Unfortunately, the negotiators at the UNCED conference discarded ideas to build a global
cooperation and a structure for promotion of sustainable energy. Later the focus on energy at
Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) lead to no results, as countries as well as the UN
system showed lack of leadership.
From INFORSE the expectation for the outcome of Rio+20 is that the transition to sustainable
energy is not only welcomed, but also included as a major cooperation issue for the coming years.
This must involve international organisations as well as the countries of the world. All countries and
most international organisations are already promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency in
some form. In addition the countries have agreed in the international climate negotiations to keep
global warming to below 2'C. This climate target can in reality only be reached with a transition to
sustainable energy. The challenge of Rio+20 is then to transform this global agreement into
increased global action and cooperation to realise the sustainable energy transition and thereby the
climate target. A part of this challenge is to make it clear that the unsustainable energy sources,
like nuclear power, should not be supported internationally, in spite of large vested interests.
Such support will divert resources from the sustainable energy transition, and could even make it
Comments on Existing Proposals
The Green Economy Roadmap (Towards a Green Economy, published by UNEP 2011) gives
many arguments for a transition to sustainable development and it also shows that sustainable
energy must be in the center of the transition. Half of the proposed investments shall go to
renewable energy and energy efficiency in the model proposal of the Roadmap. In spite of this
priority, the proposed energy transition is too slow to meet the climate objectives or the need to
replace dwindling fossil energy resources. In effect, faster actions than proposed in the Roadmap
are needed. The proposed actions in the Roadmap are shown to be cost-effective compared with
business as usual, which mean that also faster actions will probably also be cost-effective.
International Network for Sustainable Energy (INFORSE), see www.inforse.org
By sustainable energy we mean efficient use of renewable energy in sustainable ways
The Roadmap report also has an appropriate focus on the need to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels
globally as this holds back the sustainable energy transition in many countries.
The challenge for Rio+20 is now to turn visions, as those shown in the Green Economy
Roadmap, into reality at a fast pace with international cooperation. The cooperation must deliver
advices and support to countries on how to choose the green solutions.
INFORSE supports a continuation of global sustainable development goals, as we have seen the
positive effect of the Millennium Development Goals. It is important that the goals to be agreed at
Rio+20 include a goal for universal access to sustainable energy to eradicate poverty and also a goal
for transition to sustainable energy.
INFORSE supports that the framework for global partnerships are revitalized as many global
partnerships have proven to be effective means of cooperation on specific topics. Therefore,
INFORSE is member of several partnerships. The partnerships should be used where they are useful
to foster multi-stakeholder action. They should not be an excuse for not acting on the
intergovernmental level as well.
Comments on the Implementation Gap
The lack of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is probably the most severe
"implementation gap" in the world today, but unfortunately, not the only one as also many
development goals and environmental goals are not reached.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet environmental objectives, a concerted actions are
needed from the international community including financing institutions as well as a change of
the promotion mechanisms and the economic drivers in most economics. These must include
change of subsidies and taxation.
To end poverty, concerted actions are needed from the global North and South to build
sustainable and inclusive economies in all countries that can provide basic needs for all populations,
including basic energy services.
Proposals for Specific Mechanisms
For the transition to sustainable energy, involvements of most international institutions are needed
including intergovernmental banks. There are also needs for new international structures.
An international agency for renewable energy is already established in the form of IRENA, but it
should be better integrated in the international cooperation. In parallel, an organisation is needed
for energy efficiency.
In addition, a revision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is needed, which is
presently supporting the use of nuclear power including the establishment of nuclear power plants
in poor countries. This support is directly counterproductive as this inadequate solution will make
the countries even poorer and give them, as well as the world, new safety and proliferation
problems. Further, it is necessary to make international regulation and taxation of the fossil fuel
combustion of aviation and shipping, which cannot be regulated by individual countries.
Other Specific Elements of the Outcome of Rio+20
In addition to the proposals for agreements and institutions given above, it is needed to establish a
new mechanism to promote sustainable development to replace the CSD. The process should
focus directly on improving international cooperation including existing institutions. It should not
spend two years for discussions of one issue, but instead should have better managed and better
prepared discussions during a maximum of one year for each issue.