The Challenges of Energy and Democratic Leadership

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Exceptional political leadership, serious public debate and concerted action are required from the highest consuming countries in order to bring energy supply and consumption into a sustainable balance, states the final report of the Club de Madrid’s 5th General Assembly on the ‘Challenges of Energy and Democratic Leadership’, which took place in Madrid on 20-21 October 2006.

The event brought together the Club de Madrid – made up of former democratic heads of state and government – and renowned scholars, representatives of international organisations and leaders from industry and civil society, with the aim of formulating practical responses to the challenges that energy poses to our collective future. 

Urgent challenges facing the world regarding energy-security, equity and sustainability were also discussed. Concrete responses to these problems were identified, but the political will of leaders and citizens to face up to the urgency of these truths is lacking, argues the report. The assembly urged all responsible actors to work together to construct a new energy vision for the survival of the planet. 

If current policies do not change, argues the report, then non-renewable fossil fuels will constitute 90% of the increase in energy demand between now and 2030. It claims that countries should increase the transparency of energy finance and revenues, strengthen the rule of law, diversify and liberalise energy markets and develop a road map to enhance the predictability of energy supply and demand, calling for the Energy Charter Treaty to be ratified as a key step in this direction. Additionally, the report recommends the establishment of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. 

Meanwhile, the Club de Madrid believes that immediate action is required to transform our energy systems. The report states that the urgency of the matter requires governments to act to encourage energy efficiency, and dramatically increase the development of renewable energies such as bio-fuels, hydropower, solar and wind energy. 

Finally, the report draws attention to problems of access to energy, with more than 1.6 billion people in the world having no access to electricity. It declares this situation unacceptable, calling for sound public policies to be developed that provide subsidies, energy safety- nets, local job-creation and stable investment frameworks, as well as a significant infusion of new development aid and private investment. 

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