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Officials from 154 countries meeting in Germany last week agreed to "substantially increase as a matter of urgency" the role of renewable energy sources, such as solar, geothermal and wind power, in meeting the world's energy needs.

The Renewables 2004 conference did not provide a timetable or set any specific targets. But it did result in a set of policy guidelines and an 'action plan'. This provides details of 165 promises by governments and corporations — including increased foreign aid — for promoting renewable sources.

Developing countries, which face an estimated US$60 billion rise in their oil bills as a result of the recent increase in the cost of crude oil — gave their support to the final conference declaration. And environmentalists said that they were optimistic that the action plan will be monitored sufficiently closely to ensure that promises will be met. 

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