Energy and the World Summit on Sustainable Development: What next?

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Energy policy

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University of Cape Town

Given the importance of energy issues to sustainable development, energy was a priority issue at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002. The objective of this paper is to examine the outcomes of the Summit on energy, and to assess them against proposals to address the lack of access to modern energy and the need to move toward a cleaner energy system. We find that lack of political leadership from key countries prevented agreement not only on targets for renewable energy, but also on a programme to promote access. The achievements of the Summit were limited to enabling activities such as capacity building and technology transfer, rather than substantive agreements. While WSSD put energy higher on the agenda than before, no institutional home or programme to take the issues forward has emerged. This therefore remains a critical challenge to be addressed. Achieving this broad goal will require building a coalition to promote cleaner energy, and committing resources to programme for energy access. Based on analysis of proposals and the negotiations, we propose several key areas where progress is still possible and necessary, including: shifting more international public and private energy financing toward access investments and cleaner energy investments, advancing regional approaches to access and renewable energy targets, and a range of mechanisms to strengthen institutional capacity for integrating energy and sustainable development.