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Nassau County UN Day Celebration – Talk by Dr. George Garland

October 24, 2011

by George A. Garland, DBA

Dr. Garland spoke at The Bryant Library, Roslyn, NY, on October 22, 2011.

Welcome to our celebration of the United Nations 66th birthday! Many thanks to Farideh Siahpoosh for organizing this celebration.

World leaders who met in Manhattan for the 66th UN General Assembly will represent 7 billion people by October 31st. I’m going to say a bit about the general task of supporting the UN in the US; touch on what’s happening with the UN’s three pillars: Human Rights, Peace and Security, and Development; and then discuss energy issues both for developed and developing countries.

US and UN
                86% of US voters say it is important that the United States maintain an active role within the United Nations. Voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly believe that the U.S. should pay their dues to the UN (64%) and UN peacekeeping operations (71%) on time and in full. Yet the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for legislation to cut US funding by 50% unless the UN switches to possibly chaotic voluntary contributions.

Human Rights

                Official US appreciation for the UN role in Human Rights is reflected in Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-FL) “UN Reform Bill,” which would withhold all funding to the Human Rights Council unless reforms concerning the body’s membership criteria and agenda are met. Yet The Council initiated international investigations in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, and Syria, appointed an independent expert to report on the human rights situation in Iran, and extended the mandates of rapporteurs for Myanmar, Cambodia, Somalia, and Sudan. It also adopted a groundbreaking resolution that seeks to address violence, discrimination, and incitement to religious hatred. The Council’s 18th session saw robust debates on a number of critical human rights situations, including those in Belarus, Cambodia, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Congressional criticism despite success makes a strong case for civil society involvement to make sure the United States recognizes United Nations achievements and fully supports its efforts.

Peace and Security

                Peace and security as well as gender issues got a boost with the Nobel Peace Prize going to three women for working to promote democracy, security and women’s rights: Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni opposition leader Tawakkul Karman. Gbowee organized Muslim and Christian women who, wearing white T-shirts, demonstrated together in large numbers. They were instrumental in bringing an end to Liberia’s civil war in 2003. Now living in Ghana, Gbowee heads the Women Peace and Security Network Africa.

Using text messages, Facebook and other social media, Karman was among the first activists to galvanize Yemeni youth when protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule began in January. A vocal critic of Saleh’s government since 2007, when she ran a human rights group called Women Journalists Without Chains, Karman was detained briefly in January, but protests forced authorities to release her. She has also been attacked by a mob carrying knives and sticks; in recent weeks, she has been unable to move about freely because of concerns that she might be kidnapped. So the new on peace and security is more on grass roots efforts toward democracy and less on the unsung heroes of UN peacekeeping.

           The United Nations tradition of promoting peaceful change is exemplified in the career of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche. Dr. Bunche was instrumental in writing the section of the UN charter in San Francisco which dealt with colonialism. Dr. Bunche then headed the UN office working with countries emerging from colonialism. His work in the middle east produced unique peace treaties between Israel and its neighbors.


 The UN’s role in development is exemplified by the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Declaration in 2000 was followed by 8 goals in 2002 which were to be met by 2015. Progress in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development is uneven. China and India which have benefitted from economic progress through globalization have raised hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty. Sub-saharan Africa still has extremely high rates of child and maternal mortality which are likely to persist well beyond 2015 without intervention. When I first did the ending Hunger briefing in the mid-eighties, there were 42,000 children dying of hunger every day. This hidden holocaust is now down to 23,000 children under the age of five dying from preventable causes every day. Much accomplished, so much more to do.

Drill baby drill? Save baby save!

               With support from the United Nations Foundation, the UN system has recognized the importance of energy in each of the three pillars of its work: human rights, peace and security, and development and formed United Nations Energy with membership of 21 UN Agencies. In June 2009 the United Nations Secretary-General established the Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) to advise on energy-related dimensions of the climate change negotiations. Their April 2010 report, “Energy for a Sustainable Future,” highlights two goals:

                •ensure universal access to modern energy services by 2030; and

                •reduce global energy intensity 40 percent by 2030.

The International Energy Association World Energy Outlook for 2011 released an excerpt in coordination with a speech in Oslo October 10 calling for universal access to electricity by 2030 Energy Access for All: Financing Access for the Poor will be part of the World Energy Outlook to be released November 9. The facts are:

                1.3 billion people are without access to electricity

                2.7 billion people are without access to clean cooking facilities

                More than 95% of these people are in sub-saharan Africa or developing Asia

                84% are in rural areas

                At a projected level of investment of $14 billion a year from now to 2030, a billion people will be without access to electricity and there will still be 2.7 billion people without access to clean cooking facilities because of population growth

                Universal modern energy access by 2030 would require annual investment of   $48 billion.

Five actions toward achieving this goal include:

                1. A clear and consistent statement that modern energy access is a political priority and policies and funding will be reoriented accordingly. National  governments need to adopt a specific energy access target, allocate funds for its achievement and define their strategy for delivering it.

                2.  Mobilise an additional investment of $34 billion above the base case estimate of $14 billion each year. $34 billion is equivalent to 3% of global investment in energy infrastructure.

                3. National governments need to adopt strong governance and regulatory frameworks and invest in internal capacity building. The public sector, including  multilateral and bilateral institutions, need to leverage greater private sector    investment where the commercial case is marginal and encourage the development of replicable business models. When used, public subsidies must be targeted to reach the poorest.

                4. Concentrate an important part of direct public funding on those areas of access which do not initially offer an adequate commercial return. End user finance is necessary to justify initial capital investment. Operating through local banks and microfinance arrangements can support the creation of local networks and necessary energy sector capacity.

                5. Make provision for the collection of robust, regular, and comprehensive data to quantify the outstanding challenge and monitor progress toward its elimination.

The Energy for All conference in Oslo, Norway in October and the December 2011 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban South Africa are important preliminary opportunities to establish the link between energy access, climate change and development.  Commitments to achieve universal energy access can then be addressed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio plus 20, in Rio de Janeiro Brazil in June 2012.

                What can the United States do? McKinsey and Company’s report, “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the US Economy,” estimates a savings of 9.1 quadrillion BTUs of end use consumer energy, and not primary energy (fuel before conversion), which in their scenario is 18.4 billion BTUs.

This estimate assumes no life style changes; no changes in the mix of energy provided (for example increase in energy from renewable sources); no improvements in technology; no efficiency improvements in the conversion, transmission, distribution and transport of energy; and no increase in the price of carbon. Only efficiency improvements whose costs are more than covered by the stream of actual savings, discounted at a rate of 7%. Overall, the cost of improvements in energy efficiency would require an outlay of $520 billion and return $1.2 trillion in savings.

What’s the catch?

Residential savings of 3.2 quadrillion BTUs is spread across 129 million households running dozens of appliances and devices and any heating air conditioning in each household. Half of the industrial sector savings of 3.6 quadrillion BTUs is in 10,000 facilities while the rest is spread over 320,000 small and medium sized enterprises. Commercial sector savings of 2.3 quadrillion BTUs is spread over 87 billion square feet of floor space supporting functions as diverse as retail, education, and warehousing.  The existence of these potential but as yet untapped energy savings whose returns in dollar savings outweigh costs suggests that energy efficiency does not yet represent the best investment opportunity for many in the commercial sector.

The report also notes that some targets are richer than others. Community infrastructure could save 290 quadrillion BTUs for an investment of $4 billion and return a savings of $5 billion every year!

                Bottom line for me is the richest source of energy for the US is energy efficiency which also reduces the US carbon foorprint!  To reach the huge number of potential winners from energy efficiency, the price system is the best means. Washington State (D.) Senator Maria Cantwell’s 40-page bill, (the CLEAR Act), co-sponsored by Maine’s (R.) Senator Susan Collins calls for auctioning permits to producers and importers of fossil fuels. This auction would raise about 75 billion dollars which would in turn raise prices for fossil fuels. Everything that requires fossil fuels to make or distribute would cost more. In turn, every American would receive an equal share of the auction proceeds or about 1,000 dollars for a family of four. About 80 percent of Americans would receive back more than they paid in higher energy and product costs while the richest 20 percent of Americans (who use the most energy) would receive less than the increased prices they paid as the impact of payments for permits by fossil fuel producers and importers worked its way through the economic system. Renewable energy providers would now be competing with higher priced fossil fuels. Higher energy costs would signal the value of more attention to energy efficiency to millions of energy users. The price system will also reward fossil fuel users for reducing their carbon emissions if new technologies such as coal gasification or carbon capture and sequestration are implemented.

                I’ve saved the best for last. The 2.7 billion people using animal manure, crop waste, wood, and charcoal may be served by bioethanol stoves that free women and girls from gathering wood, almost eliminate indoor air pollution and associated deaths, eliminate deforestation, and produce agricultural jobs growing sweet sorghum or sugar cane. Haiti, for example, uses charcoal from its dwindling forests. About 2% of Haiti’s original forests remain. Flooding which reduces sugar cane productivity is made worse by lack of forests to hold rainfall.

                The International Rescue Committee is importing 1300 Clean Cook bioethanol stoves to test their acceptability for Haitian cooks. Local production of bioethanol will use the latest in efficient distillation technology.  Harry Stokes of Project Gaia deserves credit for identifying the best stove and best distillation technology. Sustainable cooking using local fuel which eliminates deforestation and creates jobs. What more could you ask?

                Compost! Haiti’s waste stream is 75% food waste, eminently compostable. Trees planted with compost in the root ball have a 90% survival rate , far above the normal 20%. And compost is useful in preventing erosion and flooding. 

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  1. UN Day Talk focuses on Energy | The Energy Project

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