International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: United Nations & Other IGOs
  • Submission Document: Download
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Secretariat of the International Renewable Energy Agency

Input to the compilation document for UNCSD

1. The present document is submitted in response to the invitation from the Second Preparatory Commission of Rio+20 to provide inputs and contributions for inclusion in a compilation documents to serve as basis for the preparation of ?zero draft? of the outcome document. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development presents as auspicious occasion to take a fresh look at the challenges and new possibilities that agenda for sustainable development should include. During the past 20 years, the world has changed in fundamental ways economically, socially and in the context of environment. Some of these changes have exacerbated problems of the past, but many offered new and innovative possibilities to tackling the great challenges of our time. Building upon the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 of 1992, this new landscape should be reflected in reaffirmation of commitment to a holistic approach to sustainable development, and an agreement on concrete steps to be taken in the pursuance of this commitment, with the focus on the opportunities that technological progress can offer in a wide spectrum of areas.

2. The International Renewable Energy Agency?s (IRENA) submission focuses on the specific element of sustainable energy, which is a cross cutting issue that affects all three pillars of sustainable development and an essential underpinning of sustainable development. In this context, this submission concentrates specifically on renewable energy and its potential and positive role in addressing energy access, energy security and the challenge of climate change.

The Challenge

3. There is an inextricable link between energy and sustainable development, and the global energy system is undergoing a fundamental transition. For nearly two centuries fossil fuels have driven the industrial revolution, and enabled seven billion people to live on this planet. Yet, the costs of this dependence ? diminishing resources and the threat of global climate change ? are now adding up. Coupled with the economic downturn and the impact of the recent Fukushima event and subsequent policy changes, it is evident that the alternatives are necessary.

4. A recent World Bank study concluded that countries with underperforming energy systems may lose up to 1 to 2 percentage points of growth potential annually. Surveys in 108 economies show that firms consider lack of reliable electricity to be among the biggest constraints to their business. Poor electricity supply has adverse effects on firms? productivity and the investments in growing capacity. National economies are hampered by the high costs of importing hydrocarbons and potential insecurity of supply.

5. On the other hand, current developments in energy-production systems and in the ways energy is consumed are truly profound. Whole industries are being reshaped. The world has recognized that global climate change is real and, increasingly, governments and the international community are determined to take remedial action. Many governments recognized the possibilities that renewable energy presents in this context, have set concrete targets and made significant progress towards renewables-based energy systems. Global cooperation on this issue has also been strengthened, including by founding IRENA in 2009 with the specific mandate to promote the widespread and increased adoption and use of renewable energy with the view to sustainable development, and alleviation of problems of energy security and climate change.

6. The increasing global interest in renewables is driven by the three defining energy challenges of our times: the search for affordable, clean and secure energy for all. Given the availability of resources, and their modularity, renewable technologies offer a significant and growing part of the answer to these challenges. Stand alone, non-grid, solar systems, small scale hydro, and small wind turbines can enhance access and transform lives and local economies. Grid interconnectivity also enables the large scale uptake of renewables as an increasingly significant part of the energy mix.

7. Today, renewables represent a quarter of global power capacity from all sources and deliver close to 20 per cent of global electricity supply [REN21 Global Status Report 2011]. Cost of renewable energy continues to fall in relation to conventional energy, and the prospect of a global shift towards a cleaner, more environmentally sustainable, economically feasible and reliable energy system is becoming a reality. Renewable energy technologies continue to evolve and improve as a result of large scale research and development, increasing investments and the introduction of new enabling policy frameworks. Yet, there are still significant barriers impeding massive deployment of renewables. Some of them are resource, technology, or country specific, but many can be overcome with a concerted action of all actors; governments, private sector, academic and R&D institutions, and civil society.

8. Rio+20 presents an opportune moment for highlighting some of these issues and committing to a common action to transition to sustainable and secure energy systems, accessible to all. Specifically, the Conference should agree to:

? Promote sustainable energy as an essential underpinning of economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development;

? Support the Secretary-General?s initiative on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), including the goal of doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030 through promoting the development and use of renewable energy sources and technologies worldwide;

? Support the development of policies and benchmarks for the transition to carbon-free power sector;

? Support the reconsideration of direct and indirect market distorting subsidies that impede the transition to sustainable energy systems, including fossil fuel and electricity subsidies;

? Promote renewable energy as a critical element of social and economic development that would help reduce poverty and increase standards of living in developing countries;

? Promote renewable energy as the means to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in an effort to stabilize the climate system, and gradually transition to a low carbon economy;

? Commit to international cooperation on policy frameworks and investment for the development and exchange of renewable energy technologies between countries, regions and different sectors;

? Strengthen and deploy economic and financial instruments to facilitate renewable energy technology investment and deployment.
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