Intra-regional cooperation crucial for energy security, say Asia-Pacific countries

Major fossil fuel exporting and importing Asia-Pacific nations, meeting at a United Nations forum, agreed on the need for enhanced cooperation to promote energy self-reliance in the region where high food and oil prices threaten economic recovery and prospects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Priority must be given to improving physical connectivity and building institutional linkages between the energy-surplus and energy-deficit countries, government leaders and Asia-Pacific economic bodies told a high-level forum on regional energy security cooperation held during this week’s 67th annual Session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Representatives of Central, South, Southeast and East Asian, and the Pacific subregional cooperation blocs emphasized the importance of energy security for social and economic development in the region which is a net importer of primary energy.

For Kazakhstan, a major energy exporter, ensuring stability of supplies to consumers is a high priority. The country is trying to diversify its export routes to reassure importers, H.E. Mr. Timur Suleimenov, Vice-Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Kazakhstan told the meeting.

Pacific island countries, which depend heavily on oil imports, have agreed on a regional energy security framework focusing on fuel diversification to include non-fossil and renewable energy sources, coordinated imports through bulk procurement, price monitoring and harmonizing fuel standards, said Mr. Feleti Teo, Deputy Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). Pacific island countries are also working with ESCAP on technology transfers from Asia to bring in appropriate low-carbon energy know-how to the subregion.

“Energy security is a high development priority for Asia and the Pacific where nearly a billion people lack access to electricity and about 1.7 billion depend mainly on traditional biomass with enormous socio-economic costs in terms of environmental degradation, persistent poverty, poor health, increasing child mortality and weakening social services,” said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

Subregional energy cooperation frameworks, such as those at work in the Pacific and South-East Asia, can be the building blocks for a regional energy cooperation platform to help link energy-surplus and energy-deficit countries. This would facilitate joint investments by energy buyers and sellers in improving intra-regional energy transport as well as the development, commercialization and dissemination of energy-efficient technologies.

At the conclusion of the event, Dr. Heyzer launched a first-of-its-kind Electronic Forum on Asia-Pacific Energy Security Cooperation, involving more than 500 decision makers and key stakeholders from ESCAP member States.