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Sustainable energy goals in jeopardy

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Credit: IRENA

UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. But a high-level report released today indicates that without a rapid scaleup of clean energy projects the target won’t be met.

The Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report was compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

It recognises progress has been made, citing the fact the ‘number of people without access to electricity declined from 1.2 billion in 2010 to 789 million in 2018’. Fast forward to the end of the decade though, and based on current policy trends, the report estimates 620 million will still have no access – 85% of whom will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, in a sign of changing trends, research released earlier this year by BloombergNEF showed the sub-Saharan region of Africa was attracting record-breaking levels of renewable energy investment. The impact of COVID-19 must now act as an accelerator, not a barrier, to further investment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that energy is critical for all spheres of life and is now proving to be a matter of survival. It is now even more urgent to fast track energy access efforts on the continent,” said H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission.

The SDG 7 Tracking report also highlights other major problems. The fact that nearly three billion don’t have access to clean cooking, resulting in millions of deaths annually. The fact that COVID-19 will likely increase the suffering of women and children through exposure to ‘air pollution caused by mainly using raw coal, kerosene or traditional uses of biomass for cooking’.

Political ambition, increased investments – supported by long-term policy commitments, and fiscal incentives are all part of the solution to accelerating progress, the report states.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the deep inequalities around the world in terms of access to modern, affordable and sustainable energy. Electricity has been a vital underpinning of the response to the public health emergency in many countries – but hundreds of millions of people worldwide still lack basic access to it, with the majority of them in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency. “Even before today’s unprecedented crisis, the world was not on track to meet key sustainable energy goals. Now, they are likely to become even harder to achieve. This means we must redouble our efforts to bring affordable, reliable and cleaner energy to all – especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the need is greatest – in order to build more prosperous and resilient economies.”

With millions living in remote regions the report’s authors say the emphasis must be on ‘leaving no one behind’.

“In this time of a global health crisis, protecting the health of three billion people without clean cooking solutions is more critical than ever. Governments, foundations, donors, and the private sector need to combine their efforts to accelerate the transition to clean and sustainable fuels and technologies to protect the health of the most vulnerable population,” added Dr Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director-General, Division of Universal Health Coverage/Healthier Populations, WHO.

Full Tracking SDG 7 report.

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Iain Robertson
Written By

Iain is an experienced writer, journalist and lecturer, who held editorships with a number of business focussed publications before co-founding and becoming editor of Innovators Magazine. Iain is also the strategic director for OnePoint5Media.

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