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Energy Security: From Vicious Cycle to Virtuous Cycle

ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer. (Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society)
by Stephanie Valera
16 October 2008

The Citi Series on Asian Women Leaders

NEW YORK, October 16, 2008 — Transforming the Asia-Pacific region's "vicious cycle" of rising energy insecurity into a "virtuous cycle" of sustainable energy will require a paradigm shift supported by full regional cooperation, a high-level expert concluded while speaking at the Asia Society.

Noeleen Heyzer, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), characterized the stretch from Iran to the Pacific Islands as one in which energy security is challenged by escalating energy demand, skyrocketing prices, uncertainties caused by everything from fluctuating food prices to financial market turbulence, and economic, social, and environmental threats to development. Underscoring that ESCAP’s mandate covers two-thirds of humanity, she pointed out that dependence on fossil fuels has left many countries vulnerable to both energy prices and climate change.

Under Heyzer’s direction, ESCAP has positioned itself to lead the paradigm shift from the current cycle of rising energy insecurity to a positive cycle of energy security, quality economic growth, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate action. Critical steps toward achieving these multi-faceted goals include internalizing ecological costs into energy prices through lifestyle changes and stricter standards of efficiency.

"This is not isolated from a broader paradigm shift," said Heyzer, who voiced particular concern for poor households and small nations struggling with rising fuel bills. "Energy is consumed for larger economic development. There has to be a common agenda. Developing a shared vision and regional framework is an important way to move forward."

If successful, Heyzer argued, efficiency improvements—in areas from mass transit to architecture—could decrease energy demand by 7 percent by 2020 and 11 percent by 2030. The share of alternative fuel sources could increase from 9 percent in 2005 to 20 percent in 2030. And carbon emissions could drop 38 percent.

"We need to have a paradigm shift. We need to realize that we have borrowed the Earth from our children," Heyzer concluded.

Deborah C. Hopkins, Chief Innovation Officer of co-sponsor Citigroup, Inc., presided over the event.

Reported by Michelle Nellett

Excerpt: Noeleen Heyzer outlines the threat to the Asia-Pacific region's energy security (59 sec.)



Excerpt: Heyzer lists the initial steps needed for a comprehensive energy strategy (2 min., 10 sec.)



Listen to the complete program (1 hr., 14 min.)