Local Agenda 21 Guidelines


23 Mar 2015 15 Dec 2017

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The concept of Local Agenda 21 was first introduced in 1987 at a meeting of world leaders in Norway. During that meeting the participants agreed that the planet has to adopt policies of "sustainable development" in order to move forward. Officially the Local Agenda 21 was then introduced at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, organised by the United Nations where more than 100 countries and representatives of more than 10000 organizations agreed to work out local agendas for sustainable living. Each country represented was then advised to develop a LA21 plan with the agenda set by the community itself rather than by the central government.

Since 1992, more than 6,400 municipalities in 113 countries have been working to accelerate the transition to sustainable, equitable and secure communities. In European Union thousands of Local Authorities have a Local Agenda 21 plan although in countries like Greece for example this initiative is not always under the name of Agenda 21. In the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 there was a review of the progress made in Local Agenda 21. The participants were pleased of the progress made but also pointed out new opportunities to adopt concrete steps and identify quantifiable targets for better implementing Agenda 21 as the best strategies are only as good as their implementation.

The major results and announcements from the Johannesburg Summit regarding Local Agenda 21 and Energy were:

Increasing energy accessibility - Although energy services have been extended to new groups of consumers, there is still a significant number of residents in rural and remote areas still lack access to sufficient energy resources.

Changing production and consumption patterns - In a lot of countries there was an introduction of policies and programs for encouraging energy conservation and efficiency in various sectors. This had as a result to:

  • Reduce the growth rate of energy consumption.
  • Improve the efficiency of electric power plants, but also the distribution efficiencies and electricity transmission;
  • Support for the preparation of energy audits,
  • The creation of specialized national bodies of expertise in the energy area; and
  • Dissemination for raising public awareness for energy savings and sustainable development.
  • Promotion of renewable sources of energy - progress has been achieved in promoting the use of renewable energy technologies.

Introduction of cleaner fuels and technologies - the last few decades there was a significant increase in the use of natural gas. There was also commercialisation of some new renewable energy. The use of combined-cycle electricity generation systems has also become more common in industries and the electric power sector.

Energy and transport - There was a great deal of new policies which have been applied throughout the developed and developing countries. For example in European Union there was a band on leaded gasoline. In developing countries like Egypt for example, there was an incentive program in Cairo that supported a switch to natural gas vehicles; The outcome of this initiative was to increase substantial the number of vehicles using natural gas and today there are more than 27000 such vehicles are already in use. Pilot projects to use fuel cells for buses are also under consideration in some parts of the region.

Promotion of regional cooperation - the 1990s witnessed noticeable progress in regional cooperation in the energy sector. This is manifest by the realisation of a regional electricity grid interconnection between countries in the European Union. Also, as European Union expanded to the East there are now even more opportunities for further cooperation between the old EU countries with the new comers.

Finally and perhaps the most important announcement was the launch of Local Action 21 - Local Action 21 builds upon the worldwide successes of Local Agenda 21 since Rio. Local Action 21 fills in Agenda 21 in regards the implementation of Agenda 21, it represents a move from Agenda to Action, from plan to practice.

Energy In Agenda 21

Energy is a key issue on Agenda 21 as it recognises its importance for human productivity and development. As such, energy receives significant coverage within most of the chapters of Agenda 21. It addresses the importance and the relationship of energy use and sustainable development. In particular explains the importance of energy supply, demand, and suggests ways for the transition from unsustainable to sustainable approaches to energy management.

For example in Chapter 4 it states the importance of changing consumption patterns and it gives suggestions of how economies can reduce the use of energy and harmful materials without compromising their growth. This can be achieved by greater efficiency in the use of energy and resources by choosing the right technology and resources to produce goods and services which otherwise would have required significant amounts of energy. Governments should cooperate by giving initiatives to industry to use energy and resources efficiently and with special attention to the environment.

In chapter 6 Agenda 21 points out how badly the environment has been damaged as a result of past and present developments in consumption and production patterns and lifestyles in energy production and use of people in developed and developing world, but also because of industry's bad practices. This has as a result hundreds of millions of people to suffer of pollution related conditions. Therefore, in chapter 6 it is suggested to establish environmental health impact assessment procedures for the planning and development of new industries and energy facilities as well as promote the introduction of environmentally sound technologies within the industry and energy sectors.

In chapter 7 of the Local Agenda 21 is clearly recognized that the promotion of sustainable energy and transportation is one of the best ways of achieving sustainability. It urges to increase the efforts of energy saving and promote renewable energy techniques and technologies. It calls to use energy efficient building materials and use an integrated approach to buildings as needed. This is important as the building sector today is one of the major user of energy and any energy saving made on this sector will contribute significantly to the reduction of energy use.

Chapter 9 recognizes that the protection of the atmosphere is an essential element of sustainable development and as such energy generated air pollution should be reduced. Therefore, all the different energy sources should be used in ways that respect the atmosphere as well as the human health and the environment as a whole. To achieve this, cooperation between different partners is important in order to identify and develop economically viable and environmentally friendly energy sources for meeting the increasing energy needs (in particular for the developing countries).

The above shows that energy development, efficiency and consumptions are one of the main issues of Agenda 21. Energy is well understood that is essential to both social improvement and economic development and contributes to better quality of life. In the last few decades has been realised that much of the world's energy, is produced and consumed in ways that could not be sustained if technology were to remain constant and if overall quantities were to increase substantially.

According to recent scientific findings the need to control atmospheric emissions of greenhouse and other gases and substances, will increasingly need to be based on the efficient use of energy (in terms of production, transmission, distribution and consumption), and on growing reliance on environmentally sound energy systems, such as new and renewable sources of energy. This means that all energy sources will need to be used in ways that respect the atmosphere, human health and the environment as a whole. At the moment there are significant constraints to increasing the environmentally sound energy supplies in developing world such as the world economic crisis.

Agenda 21 Guidelines

In order to overcome any barriers and help countries and people adopt to Local Agenda commitments, Agenda 21 sets up guidelines for activities that governments at the appropriate level, with the cooperation of the relevant United Nations bodies and, as appropriate, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, should follow. These are:

  • Environmentally sound energy sources - Cooperate in identifying and developing environmentally sound energy sources and economically viable to support the availability of increased energy supplies to promote sustainable development efforts, specially in developing countries;

  • Environmental Impact assessments - Promote the development at the national level of appropriate methodologies for making integrated energy, economic and environment policy decisions for sustainable development, through environmental impact assessments;

  • Modernisation of old power stations - Promote the research, development, transfer and use of superior energy-efficient practices and technologies, including endogenous technologies in all relevant sectors, giving special attention to the modernization and rehabilitation of power systems;

  • Promotion of renewable energy technology - Overcome any barriers found in the way of the development of renewable energy technology to promote the research, development, transfer and use of technologies and practices for renewable energy systems such as biomass energy technologies, wind energy, solar technologies hydro and others.

  • Energy capacities - Promote the development of institutional, planning, scientific and management capacities, in order to encourage policies which targets energy efficiency and environmental protection.

  • Energy diagnosis of energy supply mixes - Study current energy supply mixes in order to increase in an economically efficient manner, in developing and developed countries, the use of environmentally sound energy systems and overcome any barriers to their development and use.

  • Evaluation and promotion of cost effective policies - Improvement of energy efficiency by promoting cost-effective policies in accordance with national socio-economic development and environmental priorities of a country.

  • Good planning and programme management - Build capacity for programme management and energy planning in energy efficiency, as well as for the development, introduction, and promotion of new and renewable sources of energy;

  • Establishment of standards - Promote appropriate emission standards or recommendations and energy efficiency at the national level, aimed at the development and use of technologies that minimize undesirable impacts on the environment;

  • Education & awareness programs - Encourage awareness-raising programs at the local, national and regional levels concerning how energy affects the environment and what can be done to minimise our environmental footprint by wise use of energy.

  • Energy labelling - Establish, in cooperation with the private sector, labelling programmes for products to inform consumers of energy consumption and benefits of choosing the most efficient products.

In summary Agenda 21 and Local Action 21 as it was introduced in a later stage sets up some main objectives for the energy. The basic and most important objective is to reduce adverse effects on the atmosphere from the energy sector. This can be done by promoting policies or programmes, as appropriate, to increase the contribution of environmentally sound and cost-effective energy systems, such as new and renewable ones, through less polluting and more efficient energy production, transmission, distribution and use. In order to meet this objective it should be understood the need for equity, adequate energy supplies and increasing energy consumption in developing countries. In particular it should be taken into consideration countries that are highly dependent on income generated from the production, processing and export, and/or consumption of fossil fuels and associated energy-intensive products and/or the use of fossil fuels for which countries have serious difficulties in switching to alternatives, but also countries that are highly vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change.

In European Union, although there was a significant progress on the implementation of Agenda 21 there are still lots that need to be done. The policies and tools that have been used by the EU are numerous and it is not of the scope of this document to mention, therefore we mention just three key targets that has been set up by EU to be met by 2020, these are:

  1. Cut off at least 20% in greenhouse gas emissions from all primary energy sources compared to 1990 levels.

  2. 20% of energy consumption should come up by renewable sources and

  3. Achieve a 20% energy saving by 2020 in energy consumption through energy efficiency.

The above targets could only be achieved if citizens act responsible on how they use energy by recognising that the way they choose to live has a direct impact to the environment.


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