By Bwalya Nondo in Nairobi
Sunday March 25, 2007 [02:00]
KENYAN President Mwai Kibaki has said there is need for African countries to re-think their environmental policies and introduce renewable energy sources to mitigate the impact of environmental degradation. Opening a two-day conference held under the Japanese government’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Nairobi, President Kibaki on Thursday said there was need to reduce energy costs. Japanese senior vice-president for foreign affairs Takeshi Iwaya called for enhanced political commitment and cooperation among African countries to address energy issues effectively.
His views were echoed by Under-Secretary General and special advisor on Africa to the TICAD Ministerial Conference on Energy and Environment for sustainable Development, Legwaila Joseph-Legwaila. And in his message to the conference via a satellite, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon paid tribute to the Japanese government for its continued support to Africa’s development. He called for stepped up efforts by the global community to bring affordable energy supplies to Africa in a way that did not pose a threat to the environment.
Tourism, environment and natural resources minister Kabinga Pande is leading a Zambian delegation compromising energy minister Felix Mutati, foreign affairs deputy minister Mike Mulongoti, and energy and environment experts at the conference. Addressing the conference, Pande said Zambia’s vision was to provide universal access to clean, reliable and affordable energy at the lowest economical, financial, social and environmental cost. He said priority areas in Zambia’s energy sector included energy reforms, electricity generation, transmission line development, rural electrification and renewable energy among others.
Pande noted that technology transfer and capacity building driven by private sector participation were key to increasing access to energy especially in rural communities. He added that clean energy sources were also crucial to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals which were important tools in overcoming poverty. Pande said Zambia had made significant strides in improving the management of natural resources through the development of policies, strategies and action plans such as the Environmental Protection Plan and the National Environment Action Plan (NEAP). He also said Zambia was paying attention to research into improved charcoal production techniques. Pande stressed the importance of empowering the poor to stimulate economic growth in local communities.
And Mutati said capacity-building, technology transfer and market mechanisms that engaged the private sector, were critical in addressing climate change problems. Mutati said developing countries had an opportunity to expand access to energy services by using cleaner technologies. He said acceleration of the electrification process in Zambia would contribute to national development and the goal of reducing poverty. The conference is aimed at charting the course for forging collaboration in finding workable answers to environmental degradation and ensuring increased access to energy in African countries. The conference will seek to explore short and long-term measures to promote energy access and improve environmental management in the context of growth and development efforts, poverty reduction, and achievement of MDGs.