Sustainability Science and Energy

Energy and Sustainability Science:
What have we learned?
William C. Clark
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Closing Panel remarks at the
International Conference on Science and
Technology for Sustainability 2003:
Energy and Sustainability Science
Science Council of Japan
Tokyo, 16-19 December 2003
Sustainability Science and a transition
toward Sustainable Energy Systems
• Today’s trends in energy use are inconsistent with
sustainable development…
– globally (the climate challenge)
– regionally (most of the world lacks reliable grid
services; insecurity of energy states)
– locally (cities / air pollution; fuel wood / deforestation)
• Needed is action to promote a transition away
from these unsustainable paths toward energy
systems that enhance access to energy services
by today’s poor, while drastically reducing multiple
environmental and health impacts of energy use.
• A transition beyond business-as-usual toward
energy systems that support socially,
economically and environmentally sustainable
development is possible …
– many possible population/economic scenarios
– many possible technology mixes
• Common requirement is knowledge to…
lower costs of delivering energy services
lower energy intensity of economic activity
lower emissions intensity of economic activity
broaden range of energy options to deal with surprise
assess the integrated consequences for environment
and health of adopting alternative energy options
• Conventional research is necessary but
not sufficient to produce such knowledge
• Creating usable knowledge that rapidly
and reliably informs action also requires:
– solution-driven research and innovation…
– based on 2-way dialogue with stakeholders in
civil society, business, government through
which scientists learn what users need, users
learn what scientists/ engineers can offer…
– carried out close to the place or scale of
application… but within an international
knowledge system that draws cooperatively
on the world heritage of science & technology.
What can the science community do?
• Emphasize need to address interdependence
among development sectors, including energy;
• Convene agenda-setting dialogues between
researchers and stakeholders in development;
• Value and honor solution-driven R&D on topics
identified through those dialogues (an “Open
Science Conference” for sustainability scientists?)
• Support collaboration and capacity building with
research organizations, networks in developing
world… on terms reflecting their priorities.

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