The World Solar Summit

Article excerpt

ACCORDING to forecasts by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), if world energy consumption were to continue at its 1990 level, oil reserves would last 46 years, coal reserves 205 years and natural gas reserves 67 years. In addition, the production and use of these fossil fuels are responsible for a constant increase in water, soil and above all atmospheric pollution by nitrogen oxides, sulphur and methane. The amount of carbon dioxide, which stood at about 6.3 billion tons in 1988, could double by the year 2010. "By the end of the 1980s," writes Mostapha K. Tolba, former Executive Director of UNEP in his book Saving our Planet (1992), "it had become clear that current trends in energy consumption--specially of fossil fuels--could lead to increased degradation of the global environment from, for example, acid rain, urban air pollution and climate change), undermining future development and well-being across the planet."

Presented as a "clean" form of energy, nuclear energy raised high hopes, promising cheap and abundant electricity. But the Chernobyl accident, aging power stations and the build-up of toxic wastes that are difficult to process soon cooled people's enthusiasm. In addition, this form of energy production is far too expensive and technologically too onerous for the developing countries.

Although they are not high on the political or economic agenda, probably because oil is cheap, the so-called renewable energies--solar electricity, biomass, wind energy, ocean energy--have not been as successful as they deserve.

And so UNESCO has decided to organize this year an international conference on renewable energy sources, the World Solar Summit. The term solar is used symbolically to designate the different renewable sources of energy. The meeting, which will take place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 5 to 9 July 1993 in close cooperation with relevant organizations, is designed as a summit of experts.

A group of high-level specialists will assess solar energy development in the two decades since a conference was last held on the subject by UNESCO in 1973. …

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