• English

(Geneva, 20-21 November 2002)
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová
Executive Secretary
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)


Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the twelfth session of the Committee on Sustainable Energy. It is the first time since my appointment as Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe that I have the opportunity to address you.

I am looking forward to working closely with you, as I fully recognize the importance of the energy sector for economic and social development.

There are many challenges confronting industry and governments in the energy sector. Energy markets and the energy industries of the ECE region are at a crossroad, experiencing profound changes. Governments in central and eastern Europe and central Asia are reshaping, restructuring and, in some cases, privatising their energy industries. In western Europe and North America, governments are opening up and liberalizing energy markets. At the same time, changes in the energy sector should respond to growing environmental, social and security concerns.

According to your Agenda in the coming days you are going to discuss many of those important issues, like energy security, guidelines for reforming energy prices, technical cooperation in the field of energy, follow-up to the WSSD in the field of energy, etc.

I would appreciate if you could take into consideration some remarks and suggestions which I would like to make - most of them linked to the items 3, 7, 10 and 11 of the Agenda.

Item 3:

In item 3 you will discuss matters arising from the fifty-seventh session of the Commission, including the Secretary-General's initiative to strengthen the United Nations and its application at the level of the UNECE. The Secretary-General's initiative has been one of the items of the Agenda of the ongoing session of the General Assembly and will be on the Agenda of the fifty-eighth session of the Commission. Our aim is to adjust the UNECE to new challenges, to make it more responsive to the real needs of Governments and society, and to make it more efficient. Therefore I would like to encourage you to discuss the impact on your future work of the new strategic directions of the UNECE, including globalization, post-enlargement Europe, the progress in transition, etc. We would also like to review the existing intergovernmental structure and if necessary implement some changes. The new strategic directions and commitments of Governments arising from the Millennium Declaration and the follow-up to the Millennium Summit, including the International Conference on Financing for Development, WSSD, etc., have already been reflected in the preparation of the programme of work for the biennium 2004-2005. Our aim is also to focus and streamline the work of committees, including meetings, publications, etc. I would like to inform you that for the sake of increased efficiency and synergy we have implemented some organizational changes within the secretariat: among other things, from 1 November there is a new Division: Industrial Restructuring, Energy and Enterprise Development Division, responsible for two subprogrammes: Sustainable energy, and Industrial restructuring and enterprise development.

I strongly believe that this arrangement will enhance the capacity to solve not only the sector-based but also the cross-sectoral issues.

Item 7

At the World Summit in Johannesburg, world leaders reconfirmed their commitment to sustainable development. In the Plan of Implementation, Part IX, Institutional Framework, the regional commissions were asked to (1) promote the integration of the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development; (2) improve sub-regional coordination and cooperation on the issue; (3) assist in the mobilization of resources; and (4) encourage multi-stakeholder participation in the implementation of Agenda 21.

At the Commission level, we have started to consider how best to follow up on the Johannesburg Summit. The follow-up to the WSSD will be discussed at the fifty-eighth session of the Commission.

In the meantime, we have already agreed to address issues related to the interrelationships between environment and economic growth, environment and energy and transport. These issues will be addressed at the next Spring Seminar scheduled for 3 March 2003, just prior to the annual session of the Commission. Likewise, the high-level policy segment of the annual session of the Commission on 4 March will be devoted to exchanging views on national sustainable strategies.

The crucial role of energy in achieving sustainable development including environmental sustainability, is well recognized. Over the years, most UNECE countries have pressed forward with national programmes to address energy-related environmental problems. Likewise, numerous international environmental conventions and protocols have been negotiated and ratified by UNECE governments.

Despite the significant progress achieved to date, much still needs to be done in order to speed up the transition to a more sustainable energy future.

I look forward to your Committee and your subsidiary bodies continuing your work on sustainable energy development issues, such as your activities on energy efficiency, the greening of the coal energy chain, reforming energy pricing and the "Blue Corridor" project.

I would also like to encourage you to consider adding to your programme of work activities related to new and renewable energies, which was a prominent topic at the Johannesburg Summit despite the fact that, in the end, no commitments concerning quantitative targets were made.

I have already noted that the regional commissions have been asked to promote the integration of the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development. There is clearly a need to better integrate into decision making, at all levels of society, the three pillars of sustainable development.

Currently, much of your programme of work and that of your subsidiary bodies is focussed on the three Es of sustainable energy development. These are Energy, Economy and Environment, and more particularly the interrelationships between energy and the economy and between energy and the environment. In contrast, the social impact of energy has not been given as much attention.

I would hope that you might be able in the future to incorporate, in a more explicit way, the social dimension in your deliberations and your programme of work, namely issues such as energy restructuring and employment, energy pricing and energy affordability, etc.

There is another important issue emerging, which will represent a major change in the UNECE region. That is the EU enlargement. In the coming years, in cooperation with some Governments and the EC, we would like to focus on post-EU-enlargement implications for the UNECE region in all relevant sectors where the Commission has an extended expertise. A series of workshops and a wrap-up conference are programmed for next year. The energy sector in the post-enlargement Europe is supposed to deal with many important issues, like the security of energy supplies, energy diversification and energy availability, energy liberalization, energy restructuring, etc. I would like to encourage you to make use of the work which has already been accomplished in the groups of experts initiated by the EC and some non-acceding countries - such as the Russian Federation - as a start for your more intensive work reflecting this major change in the region.

I believe that the UNECE as a multilateral organization is an ideal forum for policy dialogue on some of these issues. It is imperative that countries, sometimes with different interests, and occasionally conflicting interests, can meet to discuss and develop common understandings on issues.

I am pleased that the Committee on Sustainable Energy has over the years included in its agenda the discussion and debate of topical energy policy issues. The Round Table on Energy Security will discuss the security issue. The issue is not new but it has taken on added importance because of developments not only in the energy sector but also in the wider social and geopolitical arena. It is also very much in line with the Millennium Declaration goals and represents our contribution to the security issue.

In Item 10, Regional Advisory Services including sub-regional activities in the field of energy are to be addressed. I would strongly like to support projects on the rational and efficient use of energy and water resources under the SPECA and projects under the SECI initiative, related to the interconnection of sub-regional electric power networks. South-eastern Europe and the least developed CIS are the countries that most require attention and technical cooperation. The programme of work on energy should deliver more to these countries in its area of competence. We should contribute to the process of convergence and integration to ensure a more harmonious, stable and prosperous future for the region.

Before concluding, I would like to express my appreciation to all of you representing UNECE Governments, the business community, NGOs, and other international organizations, for your participation and the very valuable support given to the Committee and its subsidiary bodies over the years.

I wish you success in your deliberations and await your conclusions and recommendations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your kind attention.