News / Economy

Climate Change Conference Focuses on Energy for Poor Nations

Brian Dames, Chief Executive of South Africa's public utility ESKOM, speaks at a forum on sustainable development.
Brian Dames, Chief Executive of South Africa's public utility ESKOM, speaks at a forum on sustainable development.
Greg Flakus

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico wraps up its final day, discussions continue over some crucial issues such as the need to simultaneously reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and provide the world with more energy.  While no one expects major progress towards a comprehensive binding treaty, Mexican officials say they do see progress in some areas and that the conference is providing an opportunity for many governments and environmental organizations to share ideas and forge agreements of their own.

While delegates from over 190 nations meet under tight security at a nearby hotel, representatives of non-governmental organizations, universities, regional groups and other entities come together at a large conference hall to move ahead with their own agendas.  One focal point discussed here over the past two weeks involves how industrialized nations can help developing countries not only adapt to climate change, but gain access to more energy in order to grow their economies.

Scientists from richer nations say increased emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels like coal and petroleum products are causing the earth to warm.  But how can poor nations reduce emissions when the only way out of poverty is to increase energy use?

Speaking in a forum on sustainable development, Brian Dames, Chief Executive of South Africa's public utility ESKOM, noted that his continent lags far behind in access to electrical power.

"If you look at the continent at night from a satellite it is truly the dark continent and therein lies the challenge that we have," said Dames.

Dames notes that energy access in sub-Saharan Africa is about 25 percent versus 90 percent in east Asia, yet Africans pay nearly double the price for energy. He and other development experts say electrical energy is the key to fighting poverty in poor nations.

The United Nations has addressed this need through its Global Campaign for Universal Energy Access, which has an emphasis on the use of clean energy. Technologies already available may help poor regions operate local electrical grids and utilize waste products in their own vicinity for fuel.

Helge Marie Norheim, a vice president of Norway's state-owned oil company Statoil, says her company is working on projects in Africa to use biofuels to supplement energy from other sources.

"Energy companies like Statoil have the technology, competence and financial capability to continue to provide for energy security, while, at the same time, addressing the dual challenge of climate change," said Norheim.

Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization and a citizen of Sierra Leone, says expanding electrical power resources in Africa would add minimal amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. But, he says, his organization favors using clean energy.

"The knowledge for solar, wind, hydro, biofuel mass - these are known.  So we can even use new renewable technologies that are existing today and their contributions to emissions will be negligible," said Yumkella.

Much of the talk at this conference has been about transferring wealth from richer nations to poorer ones to help them both mitigate their emissions and adapt to the changes that global warming will produce. To have better energy systems, Yumkella says developing nations need not only money, but technical assistance.

"There is a lot of need for external assistance from the United States, from Europe, and others, for support," added Yumkella.  "Also, there are lots of possibilities for South-South cooperation. China and India, they have developed indigenous technologies to use biomass, to use animal waste, to be able to provide basic energy services for the poor."

The climate conference is winding down, but many of the projects discussed here are only getting started. Participants in the many forums that have taken place here say they are committed to doing their part to save the planet and their own communities, regardless of what does or does not happen on a larger scale.

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8770
JPY
USD
119.68
GBP
USD
0.6414
CAD
USD
1.3265
INR
USD
66.194

Rates may not be current.