Energy poverty news: Rio+20: June 16

The three-day PrepCom has done its business but still there’s not a single reference to the Energy section of the draft Outcome document in the detailed notes published in IISD’s official Earth Negotiations Bulletin. What’s going on?

Another observer of this curious silence is the reliable (but anonymous) blogger ECO from the Climate Action Network:

ECO realised that there was something strangely missing from the official negotiation agenda: energy. Right now there are no public meetings on the energy paragraphs….Unless country delegates take the energy paragraphs seriously and make bold commitments, there is little hope in achieving many other goals in the Outcome Document

The only suggestion I can make is that discussions about energy did take place but in a blind spot to the IISD reporting service. Yesterday’s report says that no fewer than 14 “splinter groups” tackled different sections of the text. But over the full three days I’ve been able to count only 11 groups mentioned in the Bulletin.

Another possibility is that the issue is just too hot to handle. There was a hint in Thursday’s report which referred to:

Brazil’s reported involvement in informal consultations on some of the more contentious issues, such as governance and energy

I believe that Brazil is scheduled to take over proceedings from 4.00pm today.

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The problem with these major conferences is that the research community dumps its reports on your desk all at the same time and all too late to influence proceedings in the way intended.

The highly respected Stockholm Environment Institute has recently turned its attention to energy with a vengeance and I can only hope that advance copies of this new report Energy for a Shared Development Agenda were made available to government departments.

The report studies different global energy scenarios up to 2050, in the context of the two troubling but urgent demands – to provide universal access and to limit global warming to two degrees. As the press release acknowledges, this work takes forward the International Energy Agency’s 2011 study, Energy For All: Financing Access to the Poor.

Whereas the IEA limited its scenarios to providing energy access at the absolute minimum threshold of energy poverty (lighting a couple of rooms), the SEI has explored a new dimension based on equity:

a shared development agenda which examines the implications for energy systems if all nations achieve per capita annual incomes of at least $10,000 USD. “Sustainable energy is not a question of North versus South. Enhancing our energy systems is a truly shared development agenda that goes to the core of our social and economic development aspirations,” says Måns Nilsson, SEI Deputy Director and lead author of the report.

Now there’s an interesting term – “shared development agenda” – could this be the beginning of the end for the troubled “sustainable development” – a new philosophy which classifies both rich and poor countries as “developing”, in whatever different ways are necessary to occupy that space between social and planetary boundaries?

There’s one big hole in the SEI report – the absence of any costings for the equity scenario. There’s not a single $-sign in the entire document in relation to energy provision. This will irritate some policymakers. But the clarity and the sense of justice and urgency in the recommendations more than compensate.

The report will be launched at a side event in Rio on Tuesday.

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Not content with this celeb dalliance, the Sustainable Energy For All team is rolling out individual members of Ban Ki-moon’s high-level group in a series of YouTube appearancesshort interviews of personal reflections on the energy goals. They’re excellent (if you can stand the background music – how did the Statoil SEO manage to switch his music off?!)

The Kandeh Yumkella interview is particularly effective, contrasting his difficulties of studying at university in Sierra Leone with later times at Cornell. “I know what energy poverty means,” he says.

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One member of the high-level group not (yet) featuring in these presentations is Simon Trace, chief executive of Practical Action, a leading development agency in the UK. But Simon has recorded a clip for his agency’s supporters, offering brief thoughts about Rio+20.

He’s putting Practical Action right behind the energy initiative – “Rio marks the opportunity to get global backing for (the energy goals)….above all the goal of universal access to energy by 2030 is something that must be achieved.”

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Finally, some quick items that may be of interest. A really thorough analysis in Center for American Progress teases out the potential linkages between the G20 meeting next week, Rio+20, climate change, ending fossil fuel subsidies and the sustainable energy goals. This still doesn’t quite embrace the full picture on subsidies that I would like to see but it’s a rare positive spin on the current political stalemate.

ONE has published the results of its Energy Poverty Challenge with technology solutions the winner. I’d put money on the US as the source of most responses. But it’s a good day for technology as SciDev reports that two million engineers are supporting Sustainable Energy For All

And I discovered who designed those three infographics for Sustainable Energy For All. It’s Social Impact, the corporate social responsibility arm of Weber Shandwick, the mega PR agency. Social Impact will be in Rio, doubtless for a little promotion at an energy event near you.

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this article was first published by OneWorld UK

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