Stop exploiting energy as if there's no tomorrow

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's key message at Tuesday's conference on energy efficiency - attended by EP President Hans Gert Pöttering and 1990 Nobel laureate Mikhail Gorbachev - was that mankind must curb its rate of energy consumption.

̶0;More effective energy use is something we can easily achieve̶1;, Pöttering, launching the Global Energy Conference on awareness-raising and energy efficiency, said.

The twenty per cent increase in energy efficiency (one of the three pillars of the EU's 20/20/20 by 2020 target), he added, ̶0;is completely attainable̶1; ̵1; this, ̶0;without a drop in well being or production̶1;.

The previous day, the Parliament's plenary hall played host to the 9th Energy Globe Awards, which celebrated projects promoting the use of clean and renewable energies from around the world.

̶0;Climate change is not just an environmental issue,̶1; Kofi Annan said, ̶0;it is an all-encompassing threat", engendering, as he put it, regional conflict, imperilling the world's food supply and making areas unsuitable for animals and food harvest. The scientific consensus, according to Annan, is becoming ̶0;not only more complete, but more alarming̶1;.

̶0;And yet,̶1; even with some scientists warning that we are ̶0;close to the point of no return", he complained, "we continue to exploit resources as if there's no tomorrow, in a very unsustainable manner.̶1; If we continue to consume energy at today's pace, Annan warned, by 2020 we'll need 50 percent more energy to meet our needs. ̶0;Let no one say that we cannot afford to make emission cuts," he concluded. "It will cost far less to cut emissions now than to pay for the consequences later.̶1;

Gorbachev, also speaking at the conference, drew on personal experience - both as a young man growing up in Stavropol and a rising star in the Communist Party - to explain how his understanding and appreciation of climate change grew over the years, leading him to found Green Cross International, an advocacy group, in 1993. Europe, he argued, had a lot to learn from the experience (and errors) of the USSR, where - by the mid-80s, under Gorbachev's glasnost - the "number one issue [on people's minds] was the environment".

Complaining about the attitude that the West took vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and the challenges it faced throughout the 1980s, he warned: ̶0;If we take the same attitude towards developing countries as we did towards the USSR̶1;, we will face "a catastrophe." Our European friends seemed to have liked Russia under Yeltsin, he complained, switching gears; they ̶0;liked seeing Russia in that sort of bad shape̶1;. Today, however, Gorbachev added, ̶0;Russia is resurgent̶1;. That said, Mr Gorbachev urged ̶0;a new agreement between the EU and Russia.̶1; Yet, he noted, "every time we've come close to an agreement," something or someone has stood in the way. ̶0;If you have a situation where one country has a veto in these matters [...]," he said, "this will not work̶1;. ̶0;If a country does not like the EU, it can withdraw from the EU̶1;.

Image: Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

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