G8 Summit Misses Chance to Highlight Renewable Energy as Poverty, Energy Solution

Discussions of energy security, originally on the agenda for last week’s Group of Eight (G8) summit in St. Petersburg, were largely sidelined at the meeting as world leaders turned their attention to the worsening situation in the Middle East. Even though mounting tensions between Israel and Lebanon are likely to affect energy security both in the Persian Gulf region and beyond, the crisis failed to unite leaders’ opinions on the issue. “We recognise that G8 members pursue different ways to achieve energy security and the goals of climate protection,” concludes the group’s final statement on nuclear energy.

Notably absent from this year’s summit was any significant discussion of sustainable energy alternatives and their associated poverty-reduction benefits—an omission some say is a missed opportunity. In a report released last September, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) noted that as renewable energy technologies become less expensive and more reliable, they offer a cost-effective, practical means of providing essential energy services to poverty-stricken communities. The study, “Energy for Development: The Potential Role of Renewable Energy in Meeting the Millennium Development Goals,” was produced and published by the Worldwatch Institute and uses 26 case studies to demonstrate the viability of biogas, small hydro, solar, wind, ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable energy technologies in developing countries.

A switch to renewable technologies can also boost energy security in cash-strapped nations by directing limited resources to investments other than oil, according to Klaus Töpfer, former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. “Every time oil surges over $50 a barrel, the overseas aid of many African countries—money intended for health care, schools and other vital services—is gobbled up in paying the extra fuel costs,” Töpfer noted at the report’s release.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.