UNITED NATIONS E/CN.17/2001/6/Add.5

Economic and Social Council

Dist.: General
February 2001
Original: English

Commission on Sustainable Development
Ninth Session
16 – 27 April 2001
Item No. ………….

Secretary-General's Note for the

Multi-Stake Holder Dialogue on Sustainable Energy and Transport

Addendum No. 5: Dialogue Paper by Non-Governmental Organizations


Introduction *

Topic 1: Achieving Equitable Access to Sustainable Energy *

Topic 2: Sustainable Choices for Producing and Consuming Energy *

Topic 3: Public-Private Partnerships to Achieve Sustainable Energy for Transport *

Topic 4: Sustainable Transport Planning: Choices and Models for Human Settlements and Vehicle Alternatives *


Dialogue Paper for the
Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Segment on Sustainable Energy and Transport of CSD9

Prepared jointly by the
CSD NGO Energy & Climate Change Caucus and the CSD NGO Transport Caucus



  1. The energy and transport sectors constitute the two major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental contaminants. For many years, governments have heavily subsidised unsustainable forms of transport and energy, with commensurate growth in demand and increasingly disastrous implications for the global environment. In both sectors, the solutions to these problems, locally and globally, must now be based on a fundamental reorientation towards reduction in consumption and a shift of government subsidies towards support for sustainable energy and transport policies, strategies, and technologies, and targeted support for disadvantaged, low-income sectors in all countries. Four key issues are discussed in this paper, with the two energy sections prepared by the CSD NGO Energy and Climate Change Caucus, and the two on transport prepared by the CSD NGO Transport Caucus. (For more information about the NGO Energy Caucus, please go to
  2. Topic 1: Achieving Equitable Access to Sustainable Energy

  3. Sustainable Energy Has Minimum Negative Social, Health and Environmental Impacts. Sustainable energy can ideally be defined as energy with positive impact on the healthy functioning of ecological systems, including the global ecosystem. At this point of time on earth, when few forms of energy can be regarded as 100% "sustainable", it may be useful to consider a working definition of sustainable energy as energy with minimum negative social, health and environmental impacts, and which can be supplied continuously to future generations on earth. Sources of energy and energy strategies can be divided into three categories: most sustainable, fairly sustainable, and unsustainable. Energy conservation, that is, reducing or preventing energy use, is certainly the most sustainable energy strategy. Certain renewable forms of energy are very or fairly sustainable. Examples of these include certain kinds of solar energy, wind energy, micro-hydropower, and biomass. Most NGOs would consider nuclear power, fossil fuels, large-scale hydropower, and large-scale use of forests for fuelwood to be unsustainable.
  4. The Current Situation: Inequity and Unsustainability. The present situation regarding energy is one of inequity and unsustainability. Nearly two billion people, mostly in rural and low-income areas, lack adequate access to any kind of "modern" energy for electricity, cooking or heating. Fuelwood or other traditional biomass is still the main source of energy for many of these people, but the continued use of forests for fuel leads to further degradation of important ecosystems, plus destruction of sinks and increases in various emissions harmful to human health and the atmosphere.
  5. At the same time, over-consumption and waste of energy resources has been occurring for a long time in industrialised countries, and now is a growing trend in industrialising sectors in developing countries. Unsustainable forms of energy have negative impacts on air, water, and land resources, plus related negative social and health impacts on humans and the ecosystems on which we all depend for our lives. For instance, besides potentially devastating impacts on climate change from carbon dioxide emissions, the burning of fossil fuels emits dangerous pollutants like mercury, lead, cadmium, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide; and the production, transport, and use of petroleum pollutes drinking water supplies, soil, and the earth's oceans.
  6. The Future: Equitable Access to Sustainable Energy. Nevertheless, the lack of access to sustainable energy by the vast majority of people on earth, in both industrialised and developing countries, provides an opportunity for all to move forward together toward a sustainable energy future. Such an equitable, sustainable energy future should have as its basis transparent energy decision-making processes with diverse participation. It would focus on very sustainable energy strategies and technologies, especially conservation and sustainable renewable forms of energy.
  7. Energy influences many sectors related to development, and sustainable energy is crucial for sustainable development. The goal of governments, intergovernmental bodies, and all groups in civil society should be to ensure the availability of sustainable energy for all, both for communities now relying on unsustainable forms of energy, and for low-income and rural communities that lack "modern" forms of energy. This goal can be best achieved by a combination of, one, governmental and civil society policies that promote sustainable energy production and consumption; and two, strong leadership by both in implementing and disseminating sustainable conservation and renewable energy strategies and technologies that already work well, especially in local communities.

  8. Action: Support Targets, Timeframes and International Cooperation in All Actions. Governments, intergovernmental bodies, and major groups in civil society should set targets and timeframes between 2002 and 2010 for achieving all the policies and actions proposed below. All stakeholders should cooperate to facilitate the implementation of such policies and actions in order to achieve targets within the established timeframes.
  9. Action: Support Institutionalising Participation by Under-represented Groups in Energy Decision-making. The poor, women, indigenous peoples, the disabled, youth, and low-income workers and the elderly, and other under-represented groups in civil society, should have key, institutionalised roles in energy decision-making at all levels and in all sectors, public and private. Active participation of these groups should be encouraged in all sectors producing and using energy. Participation by these groups in energy decision-making should be accompanied by initiatives in capacity building to promote linkages, networking, and understanding.

  10. Action: Support Information Access and Transparency in Energy Decision-making. Energy decisions should be made in a totally transparent manner, including complete information access for the public. This should apply to all energy decisions by governmental and intergovernmental bodies in which public funds will be expended. But because energy policies and actions affect ecosystems and human, social and environmental health so drastically, such transparency and information access should also apply to private companies receiving any kind of government support, such as tax benefits, use of public lands, or other "subsidies".
  11. Action: Integrate the Concerns of Indigenous Peoples in Energy Land Use Decisions. Indigenous peoples and their lands in a multitude of areas around the world have for many years been especially negatively impacted by production of unsustainable forms of energy, such as fossil fuels, large hydropower, and nuclear power. Therefore, it is essential that indigenous peoples should have key roles in energy decisions that affect their peoples and lands.
  12. Action: Integrate Gender Equity into All Energy Policies and Programmes. The active participation of women should be encouraged in all sectors producing and using energy, in order to bring about gender perspective and gender equity in energy policies and programme planning and implementation. Energy consumption places inequitable burdens upon women, especially in rural areas in developing countries. For instance, women spend long hours gathering cooking fuel, time that could be spent in more productive activities. The use of wood, coal, crop residues and animal wastes for cooking by women expose them to high levels of pollutants, with the result that women suffer inequitable shares of disease and premature deaths.
  13. Action: Integrate Workers’ Concerns about Occupational Health and Safety and Job Re-training into Energy Policies and Programmes. Workers in energy industries are particularly subject to serious occupational safety and health hazards, and workers’ representatives should have an active role in energy decisions. Worker concerns regarding occupational safety and health should be integrated in all energy decisions. Workers in unsustainable energy industries should receive preference and assistance for re-training for jobs in industries producing or consuming sustainable energy or sustainable products.
  14. Action: Phase Out Harmful Subsidies. The primary obstacle to the use of more sustainable forms of energy is the enormous amounts of government economic subsidies that perpetuate the myths of "cheap" fossil fuels and large-scale hydropower or "clean" nuclear power. Estimates of such economic subsidies on a worldwide basis are in the range of hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars per year. In fact, the true total is much higher, since these estimates do not include provincial/state government subsidies and many indirect infrastructure subsidies. Meanwhile, subsidies for much more sustainable renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind have not received even 1% of the subsidies that unsustainable forms of energy have.
  15. Government subsidies for the production and consumption of harmful, unsustainable forms of energy should be quickly phased out. Some examples of government policies that are usually considered economic "subsidies" are: deficiency payments for producer losses; operating grants to producers; consumer subsidies via energy retailers; price premiums; tax credits; tax exemptions, allowances, exclusions and deductions; tax rate relief; tax deferrals; preferential treatment in local rates and franchise fees; provision of infrastructure, such as land expropriation for roads and plant sites; provision of complementary services; government research and development expenditures; preferential loans; loan/liability guarantees; debt forgiveness; price regulation; procurement policies; export credits; and import/export tariffs/quotas.
  16. Action: Target Government Energy Subsidies for Poor and Low-Income People. Some have referred to the social impact of ending economic subsidies for unsustainable forms of energy as a reason not to end them. But studies have shown that most consumer subsidies assist not the poor but the comparatively wealthy, the biggest consumers of energy. The social goals of government subsidies to consumers can be achieved, in a much cheaper manner, by government subsidies specifically targeted to the poor and low income.
  17. Action: Re-direct Funding into Incentives for Sustainable Energy. From the monies saved from phasing out harmful economic subsidies, governments and intergovernmental institutions should fund programmes and incentives to promote sustainable energy. Economic growth would also be stimulated more sustainability if those subsidies were given instead to conservation efforts and producers and consumers of sustainable forms of energy.
  18. Some governments that are pushing for competitive market reform and pricing in developing and transitional economies are the same governments that annually provide huge amounts of subsidies for unsustainable forms of energy. In fact, there would be a truly competitive market situation only if governments and intergovernmental institutions now gave similarly huge amounts of subsidies over the next 50 years in support of solar, wind and other sustainable renewables, equal to the enormous cumulative value of subsidies given to unsustainable nuclear power, fossil fuels and large-scale hydropower worldwide over the past 50 to100 years.
  19. Action: Support Internalisation of External Costs in All Energy Policy and Pricing Decisions. External costs should be internalised in all energy policy and pricing decisions. The price of conventional energy, already deflated because of economic subsidies, rarely reflects the further economic costs due to the negative health, environmental and social impacts resulting from the production and use of unsustainable energy, such as fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and large-scale hydropower. When one takes into account the external health, environmental and social costs, hydrogen fuel cells powered by solar energy; tidal and wave energy; solar thermal electricity; and other allegedly "expensive" renewables, are in fact already much cheaper.
  20. Action: Support Sustainable Forest Management and Restoration. The forests sector is an especially important one, because of its impact upon ecosystems and biodiversity. To decrease the negative impacts of fuelwood use, sustainable forest management and restoration, and equitable access to and distribution of the benefits of such management, should be supported. These are necessary strategies to meet basic needs until people now using wood for fuel can achieve access to more sustainable forms of energy.
  21. Action: Support Projects Focusing on Rural Areas Lacking Modern Energy Access. Sustainable energy projects should focus on low-income rural areas that lack modern energy access. Investments could be maximised in such areas, and these projects could alleviate poverty and promote capacity building and training as well as direct income generation. Examples of such rural projects include sustainable energy systems to pump water for drinking and irrigation; to power schools and small businesses; to power computers for farmers to receive information about weather, crops, and nearby markets; to light homes for children to read at night; to power clinics or to refrigerate medicines to support rural health; and to electrify rural schools at night, converting them into community centers for adult education and training.
  22. Action: Support Prioritising Cooking Energy and Women’s Health in Developing Countries. Because cooking is the main energy use by poor women, programmes to improve energy access by women and children in developing countries should place a priority on more sustainable cooking fuels and methods, including improved biomass stoves. This could improve family health, both by reducing smoke and other indoor air pollution, and by decreasing women and children’s workload in fuelwood collection and cleaning.
  23. Action: Support Micro-credit and Credit Exchange Programmes to Integrate Sustainable Energy and Poverty Alleviation. Micro-credit and credit exchange programmes that integrate sustainable energy projects with poverty alleviation should be strongly supported. Micro-credit projects are working in many places as proven, low-cost, low-risk methods of increasing sustainable energy access while reducing poverty. Such projects can directly generate income, e.g., solar or small wind water pump systems that could increase cash crops or animal husbandry for a village cooperative. Credit exchange programmes also have great potential. For instance, solar systems can be paid for in installments with export quality handicrafts that are made using lighting at night from the electricity provided by the solar systems. After the solar systems have been paid for, their use can generate new income for the family or community.
  24. Action: Support Sustainable Energy Education and Training to Increase Access. Human resource capacity must be developed in all energy-related institutions. Public programmes to educate people about conservation and the efficient usage of energy should be intensified. School curriculums at all levels should include sustainable energy education. Training institutes should be established specialising in sustainable energy in both rural and urban areas.
  25. Action: Support Use of Sustainable Renewables for Remote Locations Instead of Extending Unsustainable Grids. The costs of extending electrical grids powered by unsustainable forms of energy are usually the same or higher than supplying most remote areas with home systems and mini electrical utility systems powered by sustainable forms of energy, such as solar, wind, or micro-hydro. In these cases, governments should simply not extend the grid and instead use available funds to install sustainable energy systems, and train local rural energy service companies in their use and maintenance. In addition to uses that directly support rural development and poverty alleviation, sustainable forms of energy such as solar and wind energy are also proven technologies to provide reliable power for a variety of uses in areas not connected to the grid: water conservancy systems, railway and road lighting and signals, communications, geological and meteorological equipment and stations, etc.
  26. Action: Support Strategies to Increase Access in Grid-Connected Areas. Support should be given to various strategies to increase access to sustainable energy in grid-connected areas, such as green pricing, renewable portfolio standards, and net metering. Green pricing programmes involve utility companies offering consumers a choice of paying somewhat higher prices for energy from "green" sources. Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) mandate a certain minimum level of renewables in the portfolios (energy mix) maintained by utility companies. In net metering, unused energy produced by residential or commercial renewable energy systems is returned to the grid, resulting in a credit to the consumer. Meanwhile, the consumer draws energy from the grid when needed (e.g., when sun or wind is lacking). Net metering reduces the need for batteries and expensive energy storage systems.
  27. Action: Support Establishment of an International Sustainable Energy Organisation (ISEO). From the monies saved by ending harmful energy subsidies, governments of industrialised countries should utilise half to finance sustainable energy programmes in their own countries. They should contribute the other half to finance the establishment and functioning of a temporary new United Nations agency, to be called the International Sustainable Energy Organisation (ISEO). ISEO would have a term of ten years, and could be extended for further ten-year terms as needed. ISEO would have four tasks:
    1. Assist countries in identifying and phasing out government subsidies for unsustainable forms of energy;

    2. Assist countries in integrating external costs in energy policy and pricing decisions;

    3. Fund conservation and sustainable energy programmes in developing countries, and especially focus on providing sustainable energy access for the poor and low-income in rural areas, and on assisting all developing countries to diversify into sustainable forms of energy;
    4. Disseminate information on sustainable energy policies and practices, and facilitate international technology transfer, cooperation and capacity building for sustainable energy.

Topic 2: Sustainable Choices for Producing and Consuming Energy

  1. Action: Support Sustainable Planning, Design, Construction, and Maintenance/ Operations. The most sustainable choice for producing and consuming energy is to prevent its consumption in the first place. The best way to achieve this is by sustainable "green" planning, design, construction, and maintenance/operations of all built environments; residential, industrial, and commercial equipment, machinery, and furnishings; and consumer appliances and products. Governments and intergovernmental bodies should work with civil society to set standards for sustainable design and construction. This conservation strategy has maximum sustainable impact at zero or low initial cost, and almost immediate monetary savings.
  2. Action: Support Energy Conservation Strategies and Methods in all Sectors. Energy conservation and efficiency strategies, methods, and technologies, such as demand side management, should be applied in all sectors that consume energy, e.g., industry, agriculture, commerce, housing, transport, consumer products, water supplies, waste disposal, government and military installations, etc. Substantial monetary savings as well as energy would be saved.
  3. Action: Support Energy Conservation by Use of Alternative Options in Other Sectors. In all sectors, conservation can also be achieved by using alternative options, which are often quite cost effective as well as environmentally benign. For instance, a study on solid waste prevention showed that it cost U.S. $150 per ton to landfill; $250 to recycle; $300 or more to incinerate; but only $20 to prevent or reduce one ton of waste. Waste prevention would therefore eliminate altogether the significant energy use in the three conventional methods of waste disposal. Similarly, encouraging organic farming and less reliance on petrochemicals in agriculture would reduce energy consumption, and ecological means of wastewater treatment would consume much less energy than the equivalent chemical wastewater treatment plants.
  4. Action: Support Training of Architects in Passive Solar Design for New Buildings. Passive solar design involves maximising the use of energy from the sun by the way a building is designed, including building orientation, solar use of certain building materials, "solar" landscaping, placement of windows, etc. Using passive solar design can achieve as much as 80 to 90% reductions in energy use for heating, lighting, ventilation and cooling the building. Small investments in training architects, especially in developing countries, in this technology can produce large savings in energy and energy expenditures at little or no financial cost.
  5. Action: Support Investments in Energy Conservation and Efficiency Instead of New Power Plants. Each time a new power plant is being considered, cost-benefit analyses should be done to consider whether the potential investments would receive a better return if they were instead used for energy conservation projects. For instance, utility companies could establish additional energy services companies to do energy audits and sell energy conservation and efficiency products such as low-wattage compact fluorescent bulbs to consumers.
  6. Action: Support the Most Sustainable Renewable Energy Strategies and Technologies. After reducing energy requirements through conservation, remaining energy needs can be supplied by sustainable renewable forms of energy. Some of these, notwithstanding the relative lack of subsidies, are already cost-effective in all or certain circumstances: solar cookers; wind mechanical water pumps; windpower for electricity on and off-grid; solar photovoltaics (PV) for electricity and agricultural uses in remote areas; hybrid wind-solar; solar collectors for heating and hot water; biogas; and micro-hydro and pico-hydropower.
  7. Action: Support Dissemination and Training in Use of Low-Cost Solar Cookers. Inexpensive solar cookers can be designed and constructed locally for a variety of uses in addition to cooking: water purification, crop drying, desalinisation, etc. Solar cookers have no harmful pollutants and can free women to do productive activities near the cooking. Cookers made locally of indigenous materials are the most sustainable, and are ideal for cooking staples such as rice, beans, yams, potatoes, etc. The small financial investments required for constructing cookers and training users should be widely supported.
  8. Action: Support Dissemination of Wind Mechanical Water Pumps. Wind mechanical water pumps, an old technology, have recently been updated. New wind mechanical water pumps can now pump very deeply, while running on low wind speeds. For instance, one new kind of advanced wind powered mechanical pump can run at 5 m/s, at a depth of 30 meters, and pump water at the rate of 240 liters/hour, enough to supply a small village with clean water plus extra water for income-producing activities.
  9. Action: Support Dissemination of Modern Wind Turbines for Electricity. Electricity from modern wind turbines is now cost-competitive with fossil fuels, with costs per kWh as low as U.S. 3 to 4 cents. When appropriately sited, small and large-scale wind turbines are suitable for both industrialised and developing countries. New wind technology includes very powerful turbines that are becoming smaller in size while operating with increasing efficiency. The "Windforce 10" campaign has shown that wind energy can provide 10% of the world's energy by the year 2020, and should be strongly supported.
  10. Action: Support Dissemination of Solar Home Systems (SHS) for Off-Grid Areas. Complete small solar home systems, including 50 watt photovoltaic (PV) panels, battery, controller, lights, wiring, and installation, at a cost of less than U.S. $500, are selling well in many developing countries. Needing little maintenance, often with warranties of 10 to 20 years (although the PV panels can last even longer than 100 years), such systems are providing electricity and promoting income-producing activities. Typically, rural energy service companies (RESCOS) rent or sell such systems on credit at a charge of U.S. $10-15 per month.
  11. Action: Support Dissemination of Hybrid Wind/Solar PV Systems. Hybrid wind/solar systems can be the ideal sustainable solution to areas with inadequate solar irradiation, but which have strong winds in the evening. Storage batteries may therefore not be necessary, decreasing the cost of a hybrid system compared to using only wind or solar energy. New, easy-to-use computer programs take into account more detailed wind and irradiation data and allow almost anyone with a computer to design the most cost-effective custom hybrid system possible.
  12. Action: Support Dissemination of Solar Collectors for Heating and Hot Water. Solar collectors for heating and hot water are an established technology, produced locally in many developing countries. Mass production of solar collectors has reduced costs, to such an extent that rooftops of cities with nearby solar plants will often be covered with solar collectors. The costs situation has also improved in several European countries.
  13. Action: Support Dissemination of Sustainable Biogas Systems. Certain kinds of biogas systems are fairly sustainable. Biogas produced by anaerobic digesters at low temperatures using wastewater effluent or other residues from agriculture are being utilized in both developing and industrialized countries, in residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. The resulting biogas is used for cooking fuel, heat, or generating electricity.
  14. Action: Support Micro-Hydropower and Pico-Hydropower. Micro-hydropower (1 kWe-100 kWe) and especially pico-hydropower (less than 1kWe) are the most sustainable forms of hydropower, with almost none of the negative environmental, social, and health impacts of large-scale hydropower systems. However, costs vary considerably, and they require careful site determination and planning (e.g., consistent water flow, etc.) to achieve a successful project.
  15. Action: Support Decentralised Energy Cogeneration. Systems for cogeneration of heat and power (CHP) have become more efficient. Cogeneration is cost effective because two types of energy are generated by one system, and can often reduce wastes substantially from industrial plants. Cogeneration also promotes sustainability by allowing smaller, more decentralised energy systems that can use different types of renewables depending on the situation.
  16. Action: Support Production and Use of All Kinds of Sustainable Renewables. If economic subsidies for unsustainable forms of energy are taken into account, many other sustainable energy strategies and technologies are already cost-competitive and should be supported where possible: ambient heat flow pumps, solar thermal electricity, geothermal energy in appropriate locations, tidal and wave energy, building-integrated photovoltaics, fuel cells powered by sustainable forms of renewable energy, etc.