Developing World to Receive Billions in Clean Energy Investments

U.S. President George W. Bush urged Congress to commit $2 billion toward his proposed international clean energy technology fund at Wednesday’s session of the three-day Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC), held March 3–6 in Washington, D.C.

Industrialized nations are increasingly embracing such funds as part of their efforts to combat global climate change. The investments would provide financial support for countries in the developing world to expand their renewable energy capacity.

“This is an issue that requires substantial commitments of money, and it’s hard to commit money if you don’t have any,” Bush told the crowd of international environmental ministers and renewable energy investors. “In my travels here in my last year of the presidency, I’m going to call on other wealthy nations to contribute to this fund.”

Bush first proposed his clean energy initiative in September 2007 at the First Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, also in Washington, and he reiterated the idea in January during his final State of the Union speech. According to the White House, the technology transfers and investments would target nations that are “undertaking credible national plans to limit greenhouse gases.”

Bush’s announcement received a warm welcome from representatives of developing nations that hope to obtain start-up investments, which renewable energy projects in the developing world often lack. “Biofuel and geothermal attract overseas companies because the capital is beyond the capacity of most people in my country,” said Nigel Carty, sustainable development minister for St. Kitts-Nevis, a Caribbean nation burdened with high debt.

The World Bank will administer the new technology fund, which currently has contributions from the United Kingdom and Japan, in addition to the U.S. pledge. Japan announced earlier this week that it would invest $1.93 billion in the fund, while the U.K. has pledged 800 million pounds ($1.6 billion).

Some European leaders, however, say Bush’s $2 billion commitment is insufficient. “Every effort made is a good effort, but considering the size of the United States, we expect the amount to increase,” said Michael Müller, parliamentary state secretary for the German environment ministry. Germany has pledged 550 million euro ($842 million) to renewable energy and efficiency projects in the developing world.

Müller said in an interview that European leaders would soon offer a clean energy technology fund of their own. “We’re in the process of a European fund on efficiency and renewables, markably above the [U.S. proposed] amount,” he said.

Such clean energy funds are considered important follow-up initiatives under the so-called “Bali Roadmap,” the agreement reached at the United Nations Climate Change Conference last December that calls for long-term and cooperative measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

WIREC concluded on Thursday with announcements from several of the 40 nations who made pledges to reduce their carbon footprints as part of the conference activities. Highlights include New Zealand’s promise to obtain 90 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2025, Norway’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, and Jordan’s announcement that it would make all of its energy efficiency and renewable energy equipment duty-free. Participating nations had less than two months notice to submit the WIREC pledges, so most announcements reflected commitments made well before the conference.

WIREC was the third global ministerial-level conference on renewable energy, following a 2004 event in Bonn, Germany, and a 2005 convention in Beijing, China. The next conference will be held in India, likely in 2010.

U.S. President George W. Bush urged Congress to commit $2 billion toward his proposed international clean energy technology fund at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC).