Hoppa yfir valmynd
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Hydrogen in the service of sustainable development. The case for public outreach and education


Beijing, 25 - 27 May 2004

Statement by

Ambassador Gunnar Pálsson
Director of the Department of Natural Resources
and Environmental Affairs
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland

Vision for the IPHE

Growing energy demand is one of the greatest challenges of the world we live in and we are being reminded of that at the gaspump these days. Energy services are an integral part of our economic wellbeing in the industrialized world. They are also a crucial part of poverty alleviation in the developing world. Therefore, providing access to energy is key to sustainable development.

Our efforts at promoting the hydrogen economy must been seen in this wider global context. We need to ensure that they contribute, among other things, to the three major goals our leaders set themselves when they met in Johannesburg less than two years ago; of increasing access to modern energy services, increasing energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy.

The question is how significant a part of such a global effort the IPHE is going to be. To some extent, at least, it is up to us, the founding members of this partnership, to decide.

We have, in the Terms of Reference for the IPHE, a clear and concise guide to our activities, focusing on international research, development, demonstration and utilization activities related to hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. This should remain the focus of the IPHE. The IPHE should be a mechanism to help draw up and implement a joint vision of the development of hydrogen in the future.

But a true vision for the IPHE should not be confined to how we coordinate such work among ourselves. We should also have an understanding as to how we communicate our work to the outside world. We need, in other words, to work in the multilateral arena and build an international consensus for the development of hydrogen as a flexible energy carrier.

We all know why such a consensus is needed. There is a vital connection between levels of acceptance and the realization of our vision. Acceptance is not an “optional extra”, but something we convert into progress toward our common goals. The stronger the support we have, the sooner we will make the transition to the hydrogen economy.

Ideas for achieving the vision

There is a need to distinguish between three different levels of public outreach and education; national, regional and international.

Outreach is, in a fundamental sense, a national responsibility. The IPHE can at best assist national efforts and should not be expected to oversee them.

At the regional level, numerous activities, relevant to the IPHE, are ongoing. My own government is supporting efforts to promote hydrogen within several regional organizations, including the Arctic Council, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Council of the Baltic Sea States. IPHE might, for example, consider keeping an upated list of regional organizations that could assist in getting the message out.

But it is clearly in the global arena that we should concentrate our efforts. One target audience is obviously the “international community”, namely the United Nations system.

It would obviously stretch our resources beyond our means if we were to take on the UN system as a whole. Therefore, we would want to be as focused and selective as possible. But the need is there. Last year, Iceland made a feeble effort to introduce hydrogen use in connection with a draft resolution of the UNGA. It mostly fell on deaf ears. One reason why was the general impression that hydrogen use is at best marginally relevant to the promotion of new and renewable sources of energy, because only a few countries possess the ability to produce hydrogen in an eco-friendly way.

There is a need to counteract such misconceptions. One way of doing so be to use side events, partnership fairs, learning centers etc. in connection with major international gatherings on sustainable development, including meetings of the CSD. We might, for example, think of organizing a special event in connection with CSD 14-15/2006-2007, when the CSD is due to deal with energy for sustainable development.

We would, of course, like to maintain a practical focus in our work. With that in mind, Iceland has four concrete suggestions to make:

- Firstly, we are prepared to host, either alone or in cooperation with other partners, a series of briefings for UN staff and delegations in New York on hydrogen. We would like to have the IPHE´s support such an initiative, even though it would not be an IPHE initiative as such.

- Secondly, IPHE member states could instruct their national delegates at the UN in New York, to consult and coordinate their views on hydrogen issues.

- Thirdly, the Steering Committee could develop themes that we could use jointly in our public diplomacy to promote hydrogen.

- Finally, the IPHE secretariat could compile a calendar of international activities (conferences, congresses, meetings) the IPHE might be willing to use for outreach and education purposes.

After all, one of the most important criteria of the success of the IPHE in the next few years will be whether we gain international approval and support for the development of hydrogen as a flexible energy carrier.


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