And so ends another World Energy Congress. Four days of plenary sessions, keynote speakers, issue sessions, and meetings galore culminated this afternoon with the 2010 World Energy Congress Declaration (it’s not on the website as I write this but shouldn’t be too far away). The entire scene looked like something out of the Oscars as soft, semi-orchestral music welcomed the speakers to the stage, who would issue the statement that sums up all the hard work that took place throughout the conference
That’s the point it started to go downhill.
The World Energy Congress is supposed to be a premier energy industry event. Four days of CEOs, Chairmen (and unfortunately, I do mean Chairmen), executives and government representatives in the one place – that’s a truly magnificent opportunity to get intelligent people together and develop real action plans to solve critical issues like climate change. But the declaration at the end of the Congress managed to contain no meaningful action to cut greenhouse pollution from energy, no recognition of the risks posed by dirty and dangerous fossil fuels and placed no commitment on the industry.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, this is the energy industry talking to itself. But the reality is – as I said to the Congress yesterday – that the industry and governments that regulate it are accountable to us, the citizenry. And comforting words don’t do much good for those people still cleaning up in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, those people who have had their waterways and their air polluted by dirty energy or those who are suffering at the hands of greenhouse pollution-driven climate change.
You can probably tell, I’m glad it’s all over with.
I do have one piece of good news to report. We wouldn’t let the Congress end without this fantastic intervention from Fred, our International Solar Generation coordinator. At a recorded Canadian Ministers’ roundtable session, he had the final word and stood up to offer all the ministers present a copy of our new Energy [R]evolution scenario for Canada. As he did so, he asked the question: are you ready for the energy revolution?
Several ministers picked up the report as the session ended but unfortunately the Minister from Alberta, home to Canada’s environmentally destructive tar sands, trudged off without taking a copy. Quebec’s Energy Minister, Nathalie Normandeau, also failed to pick up a copy. Instead, after finishing a media conference, she was escorted by about a dozen police and security guards along possibly the longest possible route out of the hall. I took a short cut to give her one more chance to become educated on the potential for replacing dirty, risky sources of energy with renewables but the guards blocked my way. I guess there’s one security guard is about to become a whole lot more knowledgeable about energy issues.
So, there we go – it’s all over. And what has been learned? Well here's my own declaration - and it’s the one I told industry yesterday. We simply can’t leave the energy revolution to government and business to deliver. Our job is to get out there in the real world and demand the energy future we want. Public campaigning will shift those policy goalposts to drive industry towards the energy revolution. I’ll see you out there.
Photos © Greenpeace / Vincent