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Planning & Economic Studies Section (PESS):
Capacity Building for Sustainable Energy Development

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio +20, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (13 to 22 June 2012)

Rio+20 Conference

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio +20, was held from 13 to 22 June 2012, in Rio de Janeiro. It marks the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio-92), and helped define the sustainable development agenda for the coming decades.

Energy for Development

The objective of the conference was to renew political commitment to sustainable development, through the assessment of progress and gaps in the implementation of decisions made at the major summits held on the subject, and through the discussion of new and emerging issues.

The conference focused on green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.


On 18 June 2012, the IAEA organized a side event on sustainable energy, food, water and oceans to discuss important issues facing Rio+20 in connection with sustainable energy, food, water and oceans. This side event focused on four of Rio+20’s seven critical issues — energy, food, water and oceans. It reviewed applications of nuclear technology to all four issues and presented initial progress on integrated modelling to help devise mutually supportive policies for energy, food, water and oceans and avoid conflicting policies.

Nuclear technology is used to generate low-carbon electricity; to breed improved crops and reduce post-harvest losses; to map and manage ground water; as well as to assess and monitor climate change and pollution impact on oceans. Rio+20 considered setting goals in these and other areas that integrate the economic, social and environmental dimension of sustainable development. The interrelated nature of multiple issues suggested that an integrated approach to policymaking was needed. This side event intended to lead to a broader use of integrated modelling and mutually supportive sustainable development policies for energy, food, water and oceans.


On 21 June 2012, the IAEA conducted a learning course on energy planning. Energy is essential to all human activities and, indeed, critical to social and economic development. Lack of energy is one of the major contributing factors to perpetual poverty for individuals, communities and nations, whereas, access to energy opens up many new opportunities for improving the living conditions of poor. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals cannot be accomplished without access to affordable energy services.

Reducing energy poverty involves decisions by many players, from both public and private sectors, ranging from choices on energy sources, energy supply and demand technologies and their techno-economic characteristics (efficiency, costs, emission), institutional and regulatory framework, fiscal and financial policies and other related areas.

Today’s choices about how energy is produced and used will determine the sustainability of the future energy system and, thereby, of socioeconomic progress. Most energy plants and equipment have long operating lives (25– 40 years and more). At the same time, the extraction, conversion and use of energy always generate undesirable by-products and emissions. Inappropriate exploitation of energy sources can have devastating effects on the natural systems that support life on this planet.

Energy policy makers and planners, particularly in developing countries, are confronted with balancing several conflicting factors, like affordability, energy security, environmental compatibility, etc. They need to identify the options, compare their respective costs and benefits, especially with respect to access, assess the environmental impacts, evaluate trade-offs and compare the consequences. The necessary expertise and skills to undertake such a comprehensive assessment is often lacking in developing countries.

The keynote speaker of this IAEA learning course was Mr Kandeh K. Yumkella, Former Director General of the UNIDO.