Highlevel panel at UN Headquarters debates use of renewable energy technologies

“We cannot realistically talk about bridging the digital divide and improving livelihoods without addressing the needs of the 2 billion people in the world who have no electricity,” said Mohamed El-Ashry, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which sponsored the event. “And if we keep on encouraging countries to generate energy by burning fossil fuels, we threaten not just to push them further into debt, but also to pollute the air they breathe and increase global warming.” The issue of renewable energy is not so much an issue of technologies, but an issue of business planning, Mr. El-Ashry said. “It is a question of looking at capacity, looking at policies, looking at incentives.”Co-chaired by Mr. El-Ashry and Nitin Desai, UN Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, the panel featured Ugandan Energy Minister Syda Bbumba, Professor Jose Goldemberg of the University of Sao Paulo (former Minister of Energy of Brazil) and Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman of the Royal/Dutch Shell Group. All of the panellists agreed that high cost was one of the prime obstacles to wider use of renewable energy technologies. “Solar panels cost between $600 and $800,” Minister Bbumba said, stressing that such an amount was prohibitive for most people in developing countries. Insufficient technical capacity, lack of maintenance services and manufacturing capacity were other impediments, she said. Mr. Moody-Stuart, the co-chair of a G-8 Task Force charged with “working out the barriers” to the use of renewable energies, said the group had identified high cost, insufficient human and institutional infrastructures, “relatively weak incentives” and inconsistent policies as the main obstacles to the use of renewable energy technologies. “If we want to drag the costs down, we have to expand the market,” he said. “And the biggest market is in the developing countries.” Professor Goldemburg, referring to a major assessment prepared for the current session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, said the use of fossil fuel in developing countries was the main contributor to environmental health problems, and that social access to energy was a major cause of political instability. “People [in developing countries] have to be helped on all kinds of grounds and energy is one area where they can be helped to address their problems,” he said, warning that “in 15 years, the developing countries will be consuming as much energy as the developed countries.”Issues related to energy, particularly renewable energy technologies, are high on the agenda of the 9th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, which is meeting in New York through 27 April. read more

Uber suspends lowestcost service in France after managers charged Uber drivers attacked

PARIS – Uber is suspending its low-cost ride-hailing service in France, hoping to defuse an escalating legal dispute and sometimes-violent tensions with traditional French taxi drivers.The unusual concession comes after the stakes mounted this week in Uber’s standoff with France: Two senior European managers for San Francisco-based company were detained Monday and ordered to stand trial, charged with “deceptive commercial practices.”It reflects the broader struggle of governments to keep up with fast-moving technology — and how to tax operations like Uber’s and protect workers and consumers. Companies like Uber argue that governments are unfairly protecting entrenched industries instead of adapting to the times.Uber Technologies Inc. has run into legal problems elsewhere in Europe, as well as in China and India.The French battle centres around Uber’s low-cost service, in France called UberPop, which links users to drivers without professional taxi or chauffeur licenses. French authorities had ordered it shut down, but Uber refused, pending a legal decision at a top French court.Uber France chief Thibaud Simphaud said in an interview published Friday in Le Monde that the company changed its mind “in a spirit of bringing peace” with authorities. An Uber spokesman confirmed to The Associated Press that the service is being suspended starting Friday night.Simphaud and another European manager for San Francisco-based Uber were detained this week and ordered to stand trial Sept. 30. They are accused of six counts including deceptive commercial practices, complicity in instigating an illegal taxi-driving activity, and the illegal stocking of personal information.Claiming unfair competition, taxi drivers staged a violence-marred strike last week, blocking many roads across France.Uber’s regular app-based service, which connects registered drivers with riders, continues to function in France. Uber claims to have a total of 400,000 customers a month in France. Uber suspends lowest-cost service in France after managers charged, Uber drivers attacked by The Associated Press Posted Jul 3, 2015 5:55 am MDT Last Updated Jul 3, 2015 at 8:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email FILE – This Thursday, June 25, 2015 file photo shows a striking taxi driver holding a placard which read, “Stop Uber, Stop listening,” referring to the new US spying report in France, during a taxi drivers demonstration in Paris, France. French authorities took two Uber managers into custody for questioning on Monday over “illicit activity” involving its low-cost service. The detentions came amid rising tensions between the government and the ride-hailing company, which culminated last week in a violence-marred taxi strike that blocked roads around the country. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File) read more