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A worldwide research network to promote clean energy in developing countries was launched on Sunday (1 September) by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Global Network on Energy for Sustainable Development (GNESD) — which will initially include 10 research institutions from both developed and developing nations — seeks to strengthen collaborations between existing "centres of excellence" that work on energy, development and environment.

The network will initially focus on renewable energy, and aims to facilitate the transfer and uptake of these technologies in developing countries.

"The underlying rationale of the Network is that it increases the capacity of developing country research institutions to look at energy for sustainable development," says Mark Radka, head of UNEP's Energy Unit.

"Critically, the Network will help all partners to develop and apply policies suitable to the needs and constraints of developing countries, thus supporting the use of energy as an instrument for poverty alleviation and sustainable development," he says.

Members of the network include the Tata Energy Research Institute in India, the African Energy Policy Research Network in Kenya, the Bariloche Foundation in Argentina, ENDA Tiers Monde in Senegal and South Africa's Energy Research and Development Centre.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's executive director, said that "the provision of environmentally sound energy services are integral to poverty alleviation and sustainable development."

"Over two billion people in developing countries do not have access to reliable forms of energy [and] nine out of ten Africans have no access to electricity," he said. "Providing clean energy on a sustainable basis is not only vital for fighting environmental issues like global warming but for reducing poverty and misery in Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America."

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