November 8, 2005

Global energy meet agrees roadmap on renewables

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING (Reuters) - Environment officials from around the
world agreed in Beijing on Tuesday to work to increase reliance
on renewable sources of energy, underscoring a commitment to
renewables after oil prices hit record highs.

The draft statement stopped short of setting a firm goal
but it recommended the U.N. Commission on Sustainable
Development consider the launch of a 10-year framework to
"substantially increase the use of renewable energy."

The Beijing Declaration was the culmination of a two-day
international conference that was a follow-up to meetings in
Johannesburg in 2002 and last year in Bonn that aim to promote
cooperation on renewable energy.

"The 10-year framework is much more specific than Bonn.
They now have an official request of the UN Commission that
feeds back into the UN system," Christine Woerlen, of the
Global Environment Facility, told Reuters on the sidelines of
the meeting.

The statement also did not set a target for investment in
the renewables sector, though it stressed the need for funds
for research and development, support for commercialization of
new technologies and the transfer of technologies from rich
nations to poor.

"Targets and timetables do matter. But there is a
dispirited feeling that the U.S. just rejects multilateral
target-setting for the time being," said James Cameron of
Climate Change Capital, a UK-based merchant bank that focuses
on energy and the environment.

Nonetheless, he said the commitment to renewable forms of
energy such as solar and wind power was growing.

"Years ago, there wasn't the same solidarity about exposure
to oil price risk, exposure to climate risk, the manifest air
pollution problems. Those are powerful confluences," he said.

The world will need massive investment in infrastructure to
meet surging energy demand, otherwise it will face soaring
greenhouse gas emissions, increased dependence on the volatile
Middle East for fuel and even higher prices, the International
Energy Agency said in a long-term outlook on Monday.

Global investment in renewable energy hit a record $30
billion last year, accounting for 20-25 percent of all
investment in the power industry, according to a Worldwatch
Institute report released on Sunday.

Although renewable forms of energy are still more expensive
than coal and oil, the Beijing Declaration acknowledged that
record high global oil prices were focusing attention on
alternative sources of power.

"We also note with concern that recent trends in the world
energy market, especially the doubling of oil prices in less
than two years, has increased the economic risk of relying
primarily on imported energy and a volatile world energy
market," it said.

On Monday, China, which is the world's second-largest
emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States, raised its
target for renewable energy, saying it should account for 15
percent of national consumption by 2020.

Some delegates said the conference was only meaningful if
there was a commitment to similar targets globally and more
concrete pledges on technology transfer.

"For the developing world, we want concrete terms," said
Ramialiarisoa Harivelo, of Madagascar's Energy Ministry.

"We don't want declaration after declaration."