UNEP Side Event "Energy for Sustainable Development - A Regional Approach"
New York, 19 April 2001

9th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-9)

Statement by Ms. Anita Bay Bundegaard, Minister for Development Cooperation, Denmark

I am very grateful to UNEP for inviting me to participate in this panel discussion on Energy for Sustainable Development: a Regional approach.

It is a central goal for Danish development policy to promote environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development as crucial prerequisite for poverty reduction now and in the future. To do this it is important to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to show the necessary concern for the environment. The use and administration of natural resources must not take place at the expense of future generations. The fight against poverty must be carried out through the promotion of sustainable living conditions in which neither natural nor social resources are over-exploited.

Access to energy is important for economic and social development, but very few people in the developing countries benefit from regular electricity supplies. In poor countries the proportion may easily be below 10 per cent of the total population.

We are presently in the process of revising Danida's Energy Policy Guidelines which in their present form date back to 1993.

The new energy sector strategy reflects the fact that the Ministry of Foreign affairs provides bilateral rural energy sector assistance to individual countries in the form of long-term sector programs. Key elements of the new energy sector strategy are already being applied in our five energy sector programmes, in Nepal, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mozambique. Common for these is the emphasis on the soft aspects of capacity building and institutional development, promotion of energy savings and renewable energy. The main activities focus on rural energy needs.

The package of assistance is defined in the form of a five year sector support program, but with the perspective that the program will have a lifetime of 15 to 20 years due to follow-ups in the form of new five-year programs.

In the international field, our close co-operation with UNEP, as the principal United Nations body in the field of environment, illustrates Denmark's strong commitment to promote sustainable development. Through the creation of the UNEP/Risų Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment in early 1991, this commitment was extended to the field of energy, with the main function of supporting UNEP in planning and implementing its energy policy and programme. The general objective of the Centre is to promote and facilitate the incorporation of environmental aspects into energy planning and policy especially in developing countries.

The UNEP Advisory Facility on Sustainable Energy, SEAF, is a very important pilot project, which is supported by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It offers quick, simple and realistic responses to concrete problems in developing countries. One key experience from the pilot activities in seven countries in Africa is that small and targeted interventions at just the right time can make significant contributions to further implementation of specific policies that spur the development and application of sustainable energy strategies and technologies.

I believe that projects like the UNEP Advisory Facility on Sustainable Development, SEAF, are very important contributions to the development of sustainable energy in developing countries. The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is committed to further strengthening its co-operation with UNEP Risų in a new project phase.

The example of the UNEP/Risų Centre demonstrates that regional centres of excellence can play a most useful role. I therefore welcome UNEP' s ideas of promoting such regional centres in other parts of the world. Building on existing expertise and mechanisms and securing better co-ordination and synergy will no doubt be very beneficial. That is why Denmark is committed to supporting these endeavours.

The negotiations here at the 9th meeting of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development show that the energy issue is still a new frontier in the United Nations' work on sustainable development because of strong vested interests and very different views and approaches. The UNEP/Risų Collaborating Centre participated actively in the meeting, and it has been encouraging to see the constructive role which the Centre has been able to play as a resource centre.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa next year, environment issues will be of great importance, together with issues pertaining to economic and social development. The main challenge at the World Summit will be to find new ways of integrating these three pillars of sustainable development in a clear and transparent manner and to focus on the need for implementation in all countries, including concrete activities in developing countries. Energy - or I would rather say sustainable development and energy - will, I am convinced, be one among many specific themes to be discussed at the Summit, and I am confident that UNEP and its Risų Centre will have an important role to play here.

I would like to conclude by congratulating UNEP and the Risų National Laboratory on the achievements of the Collaborating Centre and look forward to our continued co-operation. My appreciation also goes to the many developing countries mainly in Africa with whom we have a close and succesful co-operation.