Report: World falling short on SDGs’ clean energy agenda

Despite "notable" global progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, Clean Energy for All, in recent years, policies, investment and physical infrastructure are still not sufficient to deliver on its 2030 targets.

Report: World falling short on SDGs’ clean energy agenda

The report has been published annually since the SDGs were created in 2015 

That is the key conclusion of the latest ‘Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report’, which was published on in a joint effort from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week.

Using 2016 data from national governments, local authorities and international databases, the report tracks global progress against the key ambitions of SDG 7, which targets universal access to affordable and modern energy globally by 2030. The aims of Goal 7 include doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, “substantially” increasing the share of renewables in the global energy mix and ensuring global access to electricity and clean cooking fuels.

These targets pose particular challenges for developing nations across Asia and Africa, where many neighbourhoods, and even whole towns, are operating off-grid using dirty cooking fuels and diesel power generations.

According to the report, “notable” progress has been made on improving energy access since 2010, when the number of people living and working in buildings without electricity stood at one billion. The document states that this figure is now closer to 840 million, with India, Bangladesh, Kenya and Myanmar having made the most progress in this field.

It additionally highlights the “sustained” progress in improving energy efficiency between 2010 and 2016, across the developing and developed world alike, noting also the fact that renewables accounted for 17.5% of global energy consumption in 2010, compared with 16.6% six years prior.

Nonetheless, the report concludes that this rate of progress – and the policies, investment and infrastructure underpinning it – will not be sufficient if the world is to deliver on the SDGs by their 2030 deadline.

It states that efforts to reduce energy intensity have stalled globally since 2016, when it stood at 5.1 megajoules per US dollar worldwide, and that a “substantial further increase” of renewable energy is needed through to 2030. This increase, the report notes, must be managed in a way which accounts for the socio-economic impacts of decarbonising power systems.

Clean cooking fuels are another key concern for the report’s authors. They state in the document that almost three billion people were without access to clean cooking throughout 2017, adding that this number is only likely to fall to 2.2 billion if existing policy and investment frameworks are not improved.

As for electrification, the report notes that Sub-Saharan Africa has been left behind in the global transition. While 89% of the world’s population now have access to electricity in their homes, nine in ten of those who don’t (totalling 573 million people) live in this region.

It states that technologies such as microgrids and small-scale solar and storage will be “crucial” to bridging this electrification gap, while also making the following recommendations to kick-start more rapid and wide-reaching progress on SDG 7:

  • For more cross-sector investment for renewable energy projects and supporting infrastructure, with a focus on modern energy uses and social sustainability, to be made.
  • For stronger legislation on energy efficiency, coupled with targeted financial incentives and market-based mechanisms, to be brought in by national governments.
  • For governments to provide more high-quality information on energy efficiency.
  • For governments to set long-term energy and carbon policies.
  • For investment in clean cooking fuels and supporting programmes and infrastructure to be targeted across Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The WHO claims that this move alone could prevent four million premature deaths annually.

“Despite the advancements towards Goal 7, progress is insufficient to meet the 2030 Agenda’s energy-related goals and targets, and this is especially true for developing countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States,” the UN Statistics Division’s director Stefan Schweinfest said.

Moreover, gaps in official statistics abound for these countries, and they need investments in energy statistical systems to obtain better data to inform policy accurately and drive sustainable development.”

Overall, the conclusions of the report have not shifted much since last years’ edition was published. You can read edie’s in-depth analysis of that report by clicking here

edie’s SDG Spotlight reports

edie has launched its first SDG Spotlight report, the first of many downloadable reports looking at how businesses can transform operations, services, supply chains and strategies to help achieve the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), with the first focusing on Goal 13: Climate Action.

The second report, set to be published in early June will focus on SDG 7, Clean Energy. You can view the Spotlight reports here.

Sarah George 

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