Ali Bongo Ondimba at the World Energy Forum 2012: Sustainable Energy and Climate Responsibility
Dubai, 22 October 2012 - The President of the Gabonese Republic and Head of State, Ali Bongo Ondimba, spoke on Monday, 22 October 2012, before the World Energy Forum, which opened in Dubai under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, the country in which the International Renewable Energy Agency has its headquarters.
Before a gathering of Heads of State and government leaders, internationally renowned researchers, opinion leaders and top employers, the Gabonese President delivered an inspiring speech showing his commitment to African energy security and the aim of achieving universal access to energy by 2030, as championed by the United Nations. The General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the year 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Demonstrating an understanding of the full extent of the challenges of our time and the energy requirements, Ali Bongo Ondimba was keen to stress how "investment in the energy sector is a key point of the Emerging Gabon vision". Better yet, "easy access to the network has a direct and immediate impact on the quality of education, through the advantages provided by new web technologies, and also on industry, thereby erasing the stereotype of Africa as a source of raw materials destined to be processed in other parts of the world." And he added: "We are striving to achieve secure access to electricity for 100% of Gabonese people in 2016, and this will be made up of 100% clean energy, of which 80% from renewable energy sources."
Energy mix in Gabon in 2020: 100% clean, 80% renewable
In Gabon, the production of electricity from renewable energy sources will be increased from 40% in 2010 to 80% in 2016, thanks to the development of the hydropower sector, bolstered by a $2.4 billion investment. Given this timescale, the total electricity production in Gabon will be based 100% on "clean energy", produced solely by hydropower and gas, completely substituting thermal power plants using fuel oil. "We fully subscribe to the objectives of the United Nations to make sustainable energy accessible to all", said Ali Bongo Ondimba. According to a study commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme, global investments in renewable energy reached the record figure of 211 billion in 2010 and, for the first time in history, half of these investments were made in developing countries.
Three global goals for 2030
Invited to deliver the keynote address on behalf of the Secretary General of the UN, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for the Economic and Social Affairs of the UN, reiterated the three main objectives of the 2030 global energy agenda: to ensure universal access to modern energy services, to double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and to increase the use of renewable energies in the global energy mix by 50%. As Ban Ki-moon stated in the Declaration of Principles on Energy for All presented in November 2011: "To defeat poverty and save the planet, we can, and must, achieve sustainable energy for all by the year 2030. Reaching this goal will require action by all countries and all sectors to shape the policy and investment decisions needed for a brighter energy future. Developing countries, many of them growing rapidly and at a large-scale, have the opportunity to leapfrog conventional energy options in favour of cleaner energy alternatives that will drive growth and enhance economic and social development."
One in five people without electricity
In developing countries, more than three billion people rely on traditional biomass and coal for cooking and heating (95% live in Africa and Asia). A billion and a half (one in five people on Earth) do not have electricity and, even where modern energy services are available, they are too expensive for the millions of people facing economic difficulties. The "energy poor", in the words of the UN, suffer the health consequences caused by the inefficient combustion of solid fuels in poorly ventilated buildings (2 million deaths per year), as well as the economic consequences caused by the insufficient productivity of profitable activities. In the absence of adequate access to energy, neither hospitals nor schools can function properly. Similarly, access to drinking water and sanitation are dependent on effective pumping power.
A call for climate responsibility
The current non-sustainable methods of energy production and consumption threaten the environment on both a local and a global level. Emissions from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change, urban air pollution and the acidification of soil and water. Reducing carbon emissions related to energy consumption is a priority. The global economy is expected to double in size over the next twenty years, and so global energy consumption will also increase significantly if energy supply, conversion and use continue to be ineffective. For the Gabonese president, "Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is vital to ensuring a future for the generations to come." And he called for large-scale mobilisation: "Because the future of the planet is at stake, the next conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Doha, November 2012, ed.) must result in a new commitment." Kyoto is a key issue for all those present in Dubai.
Necessary step forward
Speaking before the twenty Heads of State present at the World Forum, President Bongo Ondimba argued that "Sustainable energy is neither a luxury nor an option. It is a necessary step forward if we are to have any hope of creating a sustainable future for all mankind." While reminding his audience of the three pillars of his Emerging Gabon initiative: Green Gabon, Industrial Gabon and Service-Orientated Gabon, the Head of State, speaking in English, announced his full support of the efforts of the international community in universalising the benefits of energy, and stressed the environmental determination of the Gabonese people.