Statement by H.E. Michael Spindelegger at the Vienna Energy Conference (nur in Englisch)
Vienna Energy Conference
"Towards an Integrated Energy Agenda Beyond 2020"
Welcome Reception at the Vienna Hofburg on 22 June 2009
Statement by H.E. Michael Spindelegger,
Federal Minister for European and International Affairs
Check against delivery
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you in the prestigious premises of the Hofburg for a reception on the evening of the first day of the Vienna Energy Conference. We are happy to co-host this important gathering together with the UN Industrial Development Organisation UNIDO and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis IIASA. Some 800 experts from 125 countries have registered for the conference - and we are particularly happy that so many participants have come from developing countries.
The overall title of the Conference "Towards an Integrated Energy Agenda Beyond 2020" captures well two of the great challenges we have to confront when it comes to energy: a longer-term perspective, reaching beyond the next few years, and integration.
Energy considerations need to be integrated into all policy areas, from climate change mitigation to the response to the current economic crisis, development cooperation and poverty eradication.
At the international level, it is important to integrate all stakeholders. At the moment, there are many organisations with partial energy mandates. The Task Force UN Energy, headed by UNIDO Director-General Kandeh Yumkella, alone has some 20 members who all have energy mandates and capacities to deliver support to member States. But there is currently no UN organisation with a comprehensive and global energy mandate.
Austrian science, technology institutions and companies are known to be at the leading edge of renewable energies and energy efficiency. Renewable energies cover 63% of Austria´s electricity consumption and 29% of its heating demands. 70% of public spending for research and development in the energy sector are devoted to renewable energies and energy efficiency. Austrian companies are leaders particularly in hydropower, bioenergy, solar energy, and energy efficient buildings. Austrian Development Cooperation is also supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in developing countries since many years.
Vienna hosts eight different organisations with energy mandates: OPEC, OPEC-Fund, UNIDO, International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA, OSCE, IIASA, the Energy Community Secretariat and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership REEEP.
I would therefore very much welcome if the "new kid on the block", the International Renewable Energy Agency IRENA, could make use of the synergies offered by this hub of international experience and expertise gathered here in Vienna. We have supported the founding process of IRENA from the very beginning. I also thank our German friends, who have led this process with devotion and highest professionalism. IRENA is sorely needed.
The current economic and financial crisis has eclipsed the twin problem of high and ever rising energy and food prices of 2008. As soon as recovery takes off, this problem will re-emerge since its root cause - an over-dependence on fossil fuels - has not yet been addressed. The high prices of food and energy are threatening poverty reduction and development perspectives in many countries and regions. This Vienna Energy Conference clearly shows that a shift towards renewable energies is necessary and will promote poverty reduction and social justice. As examples for this necessity, the Conference will look both at the ECOWAS region in Western Africa and at Central and Eastern Europe.
The objective of the UN Climate Change Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at a level that would not constitute a dangerous interference with the climate system. The EU goal of keeping global warming below + 2 degrees celsius requires a massive reduction of carbon emissions in developed countries and voluntary limitations of the growth of carbon emissions in developing countries. Renewable energy promotes the necessary reductions. At the same time, it can generate decentralized employment and hence wealth and social cohesion. It might be the engine to pull us out of the current crisis.
Small islands are among the most affected by climate change. Their very existence is at stake. This Conference will listen to their experience and support them in their struggle.
Moreover, the Conference will also ask how the necessary transition to a low carbon development path can be promoted at the national, regional and international levels. What is the role of parliaments, international institutions and vertical funds?
Will the newly founded IRENA be able to make a difference? What kind of difference needs to be made?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Conference marks the tenth anniversary of the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy, which my predecessor at the time, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, launched in 1999 to promote dialogue between governments, international organisations, private sector and civil society. In cooperation with the Austrian Environment Ministry and the Austrian Development Agency and under the able leadership of Ambassador Freudenschuss-Reichl, the Forum has since then grown and has contributed to making Vienna a true centre for international cooperation on energy for sustainable development.
Austria pursues an active cooperation policy with all Vienna-based international organisations. In the context of this "joint agenda" we want to continue the international dialogue on energy issues. Our aspirations are high: We want to make Vienna for energy what Davos has become for the economic discourse. So look out for follow-up conferences to this year’s event, hopefully again together with a strengthened UN-Energy and drawing from the wealth of analytical and scientific knowledge at IIASA.
Let me conclude by wishing you very fruitful exchanges and enjoyable days in Vienna.