Sustainable development is in our grasp, says a report released yesterday by dozens of the world's national science academies, but it won't be easy
The recommendations of the peer-reviewed report, dubbed Lighting the Way, reflect the diverse perspectives of 15 experts nominated from more than 90 national academies working under the auspices of the 7-year-old InterAcademy Council in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. On improving energy efficiency, the report acknowledges that most building construction will occur in cities of the developing world, and it calls on local governments and scientists to develop practices for constructing more energy-efficient buildings. California and Brazil are held up as models for energy efficiency and the use of biofuels. And the report emphasizes carbon capture for coal emissions, which it identifies as a top priority for China, which this year became the world's top greenhouse gas emitter. "Meeting the basic energy needs of the poorest people on this planet is a moral and social imperative," the report says. It's up to researchers and policymakers to make sure that development is sustainable, it adds. Among other things, it calls for a price on carbon emissions and a doubling of applied energy research globally.
The report's emphasis on the developing world should be popular in Washington, D.C., predicts Paul Bledsoe of the nonprofit National Commission on Energy Policy. Although Bledsoe believes that "speedy U.S. action is a necessary precursor" to sustainable policies in the developing world, he notes that the willingness of developing nations to tackle the problem has been "the sticking point [in Washington] all along."