We are the UK Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development. Through advocacy, advice and
appraisal, we help put sustainable development at the heart of Government policy


Jo'burg World Summit on Energy

28 August 2002

Hot air or wind of change?

As talks continue in Johannesburg, the UK has a chance to lead on clean,
efficient use of energy, but the talk must become action and bridge some
glaring policy gaps says the Sustainable Development Commission.

UK energy strategy has been under review since 2001, with the Government's
delayed Energy White Paper now due towards the
end of this year.

'It is vital we grasp the mettle NOW' emphasises Jonathon Porritt, Chair of the
Commission. 'The world must turn away from burning away our fossil fuel reserves,
with all the drastic consequences this will cause in exacerbating climate change, and
usher in a new era for renewable energy. We in the UK must demonstrate that
cleaner, more efficient technologies work and share this experience and expertise
with the developing world to help reduce global carbon emissions'.

'It is now apparent that the British UK nuclear industry is now not just unsustainable
but financially bankrupt. The arguments for both the UK and beyond are clear. In
terms of both environmental and financial risk, a unified strategy embracing energy
efficiency, combined heat and power (CHP) and renewables confidently
outcompetes the traditional fossil fuel and nuclear generated energy mix (As
confirmed by the Government's Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) Energy
Review February 2002). Its about time the old nag that is the UK nuclear industry,
with it's legacy of waste and prohibitively expensive decommissioning costs, was
finally put out to pasture. The Government's refusal to bail-out British Energy in its
current financial crisis is perhaps instructive in this regard'

'Far too many institutional and market barriers remain to hinder the development of
renewables in the UK. Most worryingly, the lack of long term carbon reduction
targets (such as the recommended strategy of a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide
emissions by 2050 put forward by the Royal Commission on Environmental
Pollution) is reinforcing the inertia of current policy mindsets and taking away any
sense of urgency. Only bold, clear, ambitious targets for the medium and long term
will ensure that the policy aim of establishing a low carbon economy will be met'.

'We are in real danger of missing the boat here' says Porritt, 'There should be a big
debate going on around the supply and demand of energy, now and in the future. If,
as the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott says we are to build tens of thousands
new homes to meet housing needs - surely these should be as energy efficient as
possible? How will these new towns and developments be planned and laid out, will
they encourage less car use, or use less energy than developments do today? There
is a real opportunity to demonstrate leadership here'

'If the government has sustainable development at the heart of it's agenda and
policies, then why are such obvious questions failing to be asked, let alone

Notes to editors:

- At the World Summit on Sustainable Development today delegates debated
energy generation and climate change. This is an issue at the very core of the
summit: how billions of people can be lifted from poverty, without the
accompanying environmental damage.

- Bob Watson, Chief Scientist from the World Bank, said at Johannesburg today
that 'We must put in place a policy framework that will stimulate renewable

- The UK has set targets in the short term to promote renewable energy and
energy efficiency, (aiming to have 10% of the UK's energy needs met from
renewable sources and achieving a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by
2010 - and increasing efficiency by another 20% by 2020), yet these alone
will not create the necessary drive to establish a true low carbon energy
system in the UK.

- In an International Energy Agency (IEA) press conference sponsored by the
UK delegation, the Executive Director Robert Priddle said the proposed
European Commission target of 15% of global energy supply from renewable
sources by 2010 was 'clearly impossible'. The target was accused of being
'meaningless' by a spokesperson from WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) as
it included controversial large scale hydro-electric (HEP) dam projects and
firewood - which together already meet 12% of world energy needs.
Whereas other renewables like solar, wind, and geothermal make up only
2%. WWF would prefer a more modest 10% renewables target that excluded
HEP and firewood.

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) is the Government's independent
sustainable development advisor, reporting to Tony Blair and the devolved
administration leaders. www.sd-commission.gov.uk

SDC's remit is to advocate sustainable development across all sectors in the UK,
review progress towards it, and build consensus on the actions needed for further
progress. SDC is currently working in the areas of climate change, energy policy,
food, health and agriculture, and regeneration.

Sustainable development provides a framework for redirecting our economies to
enable everyone to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life, while
ensuring that the natural resources upon which they depend are maintained and
enhanced, both for their benefit and for that of future generations.

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