Global Perspective on Renewable Energy
Sustainable energy development has become an issue of high priority in the national agenda of many countries. Renewable energy (RE) is considered as one of the essential components of a sustainable energy system of many countries and cities.
The two-week Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 was the climax of a process that began in December 1989, of planning, education and negotiations among all Member States of the United Nations, leading to the adoption of Agenda 21, a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide.
Through the Earth Summit, the UN sought to help Governments rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. Alternative sources of energy to replace the use of fossil fuels which are linked to global climate change is one of the key issues addressed in the Earth Summit.
Other than the Agenda 21, other important documents resulting from the Earth Summit 1992 included: the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement of Forest Principles, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
The United Nations World Summit for Sustainable Development held in September 2002 in Johannesburg brought together leaders of governments, non-government organizations, businesses, green groups, etc. to focus the world's attention and direct actions toward improving our living standards and conserving our natural resources in a world that is growing in population. The Summit's outcomes were summarized in the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The Plan of Implementation calls for governments to, with a sense of urgency, substantially increase the global share of renewable energy sources with the objective of increasing its contribution to total energy supply.
In June 2004, the International Conference for Renewable Energies Bonn 2004 was held by the German government, in response to the call of the Johannesburg summit for the global development of renewable energy. The Political Declaration of the conference contained shared political goals for an increased role of RE and reflects a joint vision of a sustainable energy future. These goals were then used to formulate the International Action Programme which included actions and commitments by governments, international organizations and stakeholders.
The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (This web page has hyperlinks which may transfer you to third-party website.REN21) is the follow-up network of the Bonn 2004 conference. Its creation was embraced in paragraph 9 of the Political Declaration. Its goal is to allow the rapid expansion of renewable energies in developing and industrial countries by bolstering policy development and decision-making on international, national, and sub-national levels.
The Bonn conference was followed by the Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference 2005, held in November 2005. The Beijing conference culminated in the drafting of the Beijing Declaration on RE for Sustainable Development. The Declaration reaffirmed the participating countries' commitment to implement the outcomes of the 1992 Earth Summit, the 2002 Johannesburg Summit, and the United Nations 2005 Millennium Review Summit, and reiterated the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation's call to substantially increase with a sense of urgency the global share of RE in total energy supply.
Development of renewable energy is considered one of the ways to mitigate global warming and associated climate change effect. The first international convention relating to climate change is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which arose out of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) of 1992. The Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. The Convention entered into force in 1994.
The Convention as originally framed sets no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual nations. Rather, the Convention included provisions for updates (called "protocols") that would set mandatory emission limits. The principal update is the Kyoto Protocol.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol shares the Convention's objective, principles and institutions, but significantly strengthens the Convention by committing industrialized countries, the so called "Annex I Parties" to the Convention, to legally-binding targets to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Only Parties to the Convention that have also become Parties to the Protocol will be bound by the Protocol's commitments. 164 countries have ratified the Protocol to date. Of these, 35 countries and the EEC are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below levels specified for each of them in the treaty. The individual targets for Annex I Parties add up to a total cut in greenhouse-gas emissions of at least 5% from 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008-2012. The Kyoto Protocol entered into force in 2002.
Perspectives of Some Countries/Regions on Renewable Energy
Different countries have taken different approaches to promote the use of renewable energy. Given below are links to websites outlining some countries' perspectives or approaches with regard to renewable energy:
People's Republic of China, Renewable Energy Law
European Commission (EC), Directorate-General on Energy and New and Renewable Energies
United Kingdom, Department of Trade and Energy
Australia, Australian Greenhouse Office
Measures to Promote Renewable Energy
In general, the policy measures to promote renewable energy include:
Interested readers are referred to the Renewables Global Status Report 2005 and Renewables Global Status Report 2006 Update published by the REN21, which are available for download from the This web page has hyperlinks which may transfer you to third-party website.REN21 website.