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UN energy conference fell far short of third-world expectations

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After 10 days of hard and often angry debate, the United nations Conference on New and Renewable Energy Sources did finally reach a consensus. But the Aug. 21 agreement was hardly welcome to the third-world countries and their friends.

They had hoped for the setting up of a thoroughgoing UN energy secretariat and a financial energy institution (preferably linked to the World Bank) that would be able to channel large funds to poor nations for the development of suitable renewable energy sources.

The outcome was far, far less than this. The United States delegation, led by President Reagan's special representative, Stanton Anderson, opposed any specialized UN body and doused the third-world pet, a World Bank energy affiliate, with cold water.

The US proposed the designation of the committee on natural resources of a low-powered Un body, Ecosoc (the Economic and Social Council), to monitor and facilitate the workings of the "Nairobi plan of action."

Eventually the conference entrusted the immediate launching of the plan of action to an intergovernmental committee patterned on the conference's preparatory committee.

The committee is to hold only one two- week session, in 1982. Ecosoc will then report to the General Assembly, which will decide on any further institutional measures needed.

The coordination of the contributions by the relevant UN organs is to be given to the Un director-general for development and international economic cooperation. The provision of a secretarial unit for the intergovernmental body is to be decided on by the General Assembly in September.

The vital problem of energy development is left to each country. But the program emphasizes that the financial institutions and mechanisms of the UN system should be provided with additional and adequate funds to meet the development of energy resources in developing countries. The World Bank has roughly estimated that the cost of renewable energy development in the third world would be $50 billion to $80 billion.

One of the most important issues at the conference was the fuelwood crisis in many countries of the third world, and the program urges the acceleration of forestation to achieve a fivefold increase in annual tree planting by the year 2000.

How this is to be realized by the Nairobi program was not explained.

The word "Reaganomics" was heard throughout the conference as the powerful US nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) at Nairobi voicing their frustration and anger.

"Broad segments of the American public and business communities will oppose the President's stingy and narrow-minded policies pushed at the conference," said NGO caucus chairman Stephen Biddle.


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