Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts on the importance of your knowledge and experience in the field of geothermal energy, both for your home countries and for the world as a whole.
As some of you may know, I was for six years Minister of Industry and was very much involved in energy issues. I took a particular interest in renewables. Based on my experience it is my firm belief that the challenges and tasks we are facing in the area of energy, environment and technology are global in nature and, therefore, call for increased global solutions and co-operation.
For many years, I have advocated that Iceland should increase its use of renewable energy resources by offering Iceland to other countries as a site for power intensive industries and thereby contribute to the reduction of global greenhouse gases emission and the displacing of pollution that might otherwise occur elsewhere. It was also a part of my policy as Minister of Industry to increase our efforts with UNU in assisting developing countries to utilise geothermal energy.
Having been a strong supporter of the UNU Geothermal Training Programme, both in my former and current position, I take it as a privilege now as a Minister responsible for development co-operation to be able to continue and to exercise that support. One of my first tasks as Foreign Minister was to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York. On that occasion I met some 25 of my fellow ministers. A good many of them showed a keen interest in geothermal energy and in our expertise. It is clear that knowledge in this field is in high demand.
Of course, energy is essential to improving the quality of life. Neither global energy security, nor the Millennium Development Goals can be fully achieved without sustainable access to fuel for the 2,4 billion people and to electricity for the 1,6 billion people currently without such access in developing countries.
Unfortunately, more energy consumption, in most cases, means greater greenhouse gas emissions. One of our greatest challenges today is to square the development circle; to meet our development needs while safeguarding the environment. One way, certainly, is to increase substantially the share of renewables in world energy demand. This is why Iceland is taking an active part in promoting renewables and new technologies through its development co-operation and the work of the UNU Geothermal Training Programme.
In Iceland’s policy on Development Co-operation it is stated clearly that the government will increase its focus on capacity building in sustainable use of natural resources. Considerable part of that emphasis is by strengthening the UNU programmes. In the budget proposals for the year 2007 you will see that we are once again increasing the core funding to the UNU Geothermal Training Programme by around 30%.
This increased funding will continue to make it possible for the programme to expand its capacity building activities in the developing countries. Such work in the field, workshops and short courses in geothermal development, were held in Africa last year. We have been informed that the Programme expects to start this year in Central America and hopefully in Asia in 2007. This approach to expanding the Iceland-based UN geothermal programme is particularly satisfying as it increases the overall contact with partner countries and hopefully then to our former fellows.
We have also been happy to learn that the increased core funding has also made it possible to increase the number of fellows at masters level at the University of Iceland, where I understand that we support nine fellows at the moment.
Finally, may I wish you all well for the future and hope that you will keep in contact with Iceland and the UNU Geothermal Programme and, again, congratulations on your graduation.