Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez traveled to Iran on Tuesday to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and discuss energy cooperation. On the agenda: the formation of a joint oil transportation company and the possible construction of petrochemical plants. While Chávez has already traveled to Iran nine times since taking office in 1999, Tuesday’s two-day visit is part of a multinational tour to strengthen Venezuela’s relationships with Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries.
Local Iranian television covered Chávez’ arrival, where he was greeted by Minister of Industry and Mining Alí Akbar Mehrabian. In a televised statement, Chávez reiterated his support for Iran’s controversial nuclear program, and criticized the “unfair sanctions imposed on the people of Iran” by the United Nations. The UN, the United States and many of its allies have said that Iran’s nuclear proliferation program seeks to produce weapon-grade material. Ahmedinijad and other Irani officials maintain that the uranium enrichment program is solely for energy purposes.
Chávez also took the opportunity to defend his own domestic energy agenda, which includes building a nuclear power plant in Venezuela. The plan has attracted widespread criticism from the U.S. in particular. But Chávez has dismissed the remarks as “the same story of the [American] empire and all of its worldwide networks to try to impede the independence of our people.”
Just over a year ago President Barack Obama first met many of his regional counterparts at the Summit of the Americas. The Summit was largely a diplomatic exercise but one idea—Obama’s proposed regional energy and climate partnership—may finally be gaining some traction.
A slew of initiatives were on display last week as representatives from 32 countries gathered in Washington for the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas hosted by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Over two days, ministers of energy and other government officials met with their counterparts, the private sector and civil society to discuss paths toward a cleaner energy matrix in the Western Hemisphere.
That so many countries are joining forces in this initiative is a good start, but addressing the hard political and investment climate issues will be essential for the region’s energy security over the long term.
As described by Secretary Clinton at the ministerial, the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas is the Facebook for clean energy in the Americas. It is a user-driven framework for collaboration, bringing together countries that have information to share, seek assistance or want to provide support to clean energy and climate initiatives. The concept is a little mushy, and governments have struggled to convey its essence. But as initiatives get underway, ECPA is starting to take shape as a network of country-led knowledge centers, working groups and projects.
Thousands of environmental activists from 130 countries, including the world’s poorest, arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on Tuesday for the People's World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights. Their arrival coincided with the conclusion of the Sixth Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington DC, which included leaders from 17 developed countries.
The Bolivia Conference, conceived by President Evo Morales in January as an alternative to the U.N.-sponsored Copenhagen Summit last December, will run through April 22 (Earth Day) and aims to draft alternative proposals for the next UN meeting in Mexico, scheduled for December 2010.
Through participation at the Major Economies Forum and the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton writes in an op-ed that the U.S. and its partners are working together to confront climate change. This cooperation is reflected by efforts to link energy efficiency centers like Chile's Renewable Energy Center in Santiago, Mexico's Wind Center in Oaxaca, a biomass center in Brazil, and a geothermal center in El Salvador.
Morales claims the needs of developing countries are not being adequately considered in the climate change debates. Among the 18,000 people expected to attend the Cochabamba Conference are actor Danny Glover, director James Cameron and NASA scientist Jim Hansen.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.