The nexus of energy, sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts is the theme of a Scientific Forum that opened today in Vienna. It is an opportunity to discuss challenges in assuring universal access to affordable, secure energy, while taking into account efforts to mitigate climate change and conserve natural resources.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalled that energy scarcity, poverty and security are central concerns that must be addressed in current political and economic debates.
"This year we have chosen a timely topic: without energy there is no development, and development is life," he said.
Dr. ElBaradei restated an initiative he initially introduced at the 2006 St. Petersburg G8 Summit to establish an international agency dedicated to energy and related issues.
"We have a fragmented approach to the energy issue at present. We have major UN agencies dedicated to all major aspects of human life - such as health, maritime trade and civil aviation. We need one for energy as well."
Such an institution, he continued, would provide consolidated figures on world energy use and requirements, conduct regular peer reviews of national energy plans and assure energy supply in emergencies.
"It would also speed up technology transfer to poor countries... as well as coordinate and fund research and development with a focus on developing countries," he concluded.
Keynote speaker and fellow Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Schelling, called for the establishment of institutions dedicated to the development of poor countries. These institutions would take the lead in raising, channelling and allocating assistance from developed to developing countries.
In his presentation, Ashok Khosla, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness, which underlies a fundamental shift in the approach to economic development.
The Forum´s opening session concluded with a presentation by Abeeku Brew-Hammond, Professor at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Chairman of the Ghana Energy Commission, explaining a multi-track, innovative approach to addressing the technological and sociological aspects of the energy issue.
The 2009 Scientific Forum is chaired by Srikumar Banerjee, Director of India´s Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
The two-day Scientific Forum, which is organised by the IAEA, coincides with its annual General Conference. Each year, the Scientific Forum concentrates on a different topic.
This year´s participants and speakers will be focussing on the lack of access to modern energy services in many parts of the world and debating whether energy access is the missing Millennium Development Goal. Sessions will also look at energy demand and supply and the energy options - renewable sources, fossil and nuclear. The link between food security and energy supply and the weaknesses in existing energy aid mechanisms will also be discussed. Finally, the Forum will try to reach some conclusions on how international organisations can better help advance energy for development issues.