The UN Environmental Program (UNEP) has rejected the World Nuclear Association’s (WNA) offer to provide financial support to the 8th Annual Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF).
Described by its chairman as the “largest business-focused side event during the annual Conference Of Parties” the event is scheduled to take place alongside COP23 in Bonn, Germany. Originally accepted as a gold sponsor and ready to pay the £40,000 ($68,338) fee, WNA was recently notified that its sponsorship had been rescinded upon intervention by the UN Environment Program (UNEP).
The original rejection was accompanied by a tentative offer for a lesser sponsorship that did not include any branding or overt credit, but even that offer was later vetoed by the UNEP.
UNEP, an organization whose mission is ‘To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations’ will not even take the nuclear industry’s money and allow it to explain how its technology could contribute to an enhanced accomplishment of that mission.
As reported in an article published in The Australian titled UN accused of bias as energy forum excludes nuclear Naysán Sahba, a spokesman for UNEP, explained the decision as follows.
“We prioritise the renewables revolution, such as wind and solar energy, as well as encouraging the ongoing shift from fossil fuel,’’ Mr Sahba said.
“Our work on the nuclear sector is limited.”
That position employs specious logic. No one was asking the UNEP to stop promoting wind and solar or even to explain to anyone why nuclear energy should or should not be considered as a clean energy technology. However, no one at WNA was expecting such a firm rejection from an organization that has long recognized the immediate need to reduce CO2 production from energy.
By making a financial commitment to sponsor SIF17 in Bonn, the nuclear industry was trying to follow the lead of industrial organizations like BMW and Toyota, two of the world’s largest producers of automobiles driven by internal combustion engines burning gasoline, Orstead, a utility that continues to operate coal fired power stations and Deutsche Post DHL Group, a logistics company that operates fleets of aircraft and trucks.
All four of those organizations are headline or gold level sponsors of the 2017 Sustainable Innovation Forum.
Perhaps part of the problem is that the World Nuclear Association does not have a conversion story to share about how it has seen the light and decided to redirect its fossil fuel focus to stop burning stuff in a few decades.
Instead, the organization represents an industry that has been specializing in producing energy with a minimum level of CO2 and other polluting by-products for more than 50 years.
David Hess, a policy analyst and communication manager for WNA, expressed his organization’s deep disappointment at being rejected from conference sponsorship. They were looking forward to the opportunity to be in a room full of serious people talking about effective ways of addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems.
Ben Heard, the executive director of Bright New World, a climate and energy focused NGO, told The Australian that he was gobsmacked to see such a blatant example of bias and prejudice.
“I’m an advocate for this technology on environmental grounds but it struggles, and part of the reason is time after time it faces this kind of institutional bias which means no-one can even have a conversation about it.”
When contacted, Heard acknowledged that some participants in the event might have been uncomfortable confronting evidence supporting the disturbing notion that nuclear energy is clean. He emphasized the importance of accepting new ways of thinking.
“If institutions cannot deal with even this small amount of discomfort, we have no chance of coming together to resolve a challenge like climate change.”
Mathijs Beckers, a Dutch author of several climate and energy books, made the following observation.
“Our leaders are pretending to work on a solution to poverty and climate change, but they are still considering useless shiny things at the boutique, while the real solutions lie in the hardware store.”
Eric Meyer, the Founder and Executive Director of Generation Atomic, an NGO founded by millennials deeply concerned about the world they are inheriting made the following observation.
“With nuclear energy, we actually have a shot at decarbonizing in time–France, Sweden, and Ontario have demonstrated this. For now, it appears that we live in a world where politics and fear trump facts and science, even at the UNEP. We must work to change that, before it’s too late.”
The world’s need for abundant clean energy is too pressing to address it from predetermined positions that prevent thorough consideration of all available technologies.
Kirsty Gogan, co-founder and Global Director of Energy for Humanity provided her observations on the UNEP’s decision to exclude nuclear energy’s global trade group.
“UNEP have exposed an institutional bias that is nothing to do with solving environmental problems, and everything to do with marketing pet technologies.
“Nuclear energy is the only proven way to transition from coal to clean electricity generation. Nuclear energy has problems with high costs and low public confidence, but without it, there is an even greater risk that we will miss our climate targets.
“This is why anyone who cares about solving climate change should be insisting that nuclear come to the table to explain how the industry intends to step up to drive down costs and build public confidence. But instead, by blocking nuclear from the conversation, and insisting on a conditional, renewables-only, response to climate change, UNEP have displayed a dangerous ideological agenda that undermines their own credibility.
“If the UNEP lacks the courage and conviction to tackle these difficult conversations, even at the risk of annoying the antinuclear greens, what chance do we have of stepping up to solve climate?”
It’s quite short-sighted for an organization claiming to be a global leader for a cleaner environment and a more equitable distribution of life-enhancing energy resources to silence discussion of nuclear energy.
Disclosure: Rod Adams was a founding member of the Generation Atomic Board of Directors.
A version of the above was first published on Forbes.com. It is republished here with permission.