SDG #7 Modern Energy for All
By Shani Asokan
Ceylon Today Features
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals that were agreed upon by all United Nations (UN) Member States at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sustainable Development Goal 7 is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. The world has made considerable progress towards this goal in the recent years as energy has become more sustainable and widely available. Rates of access to electricity have gone up in poorer countries, and energy efficiency continues to improve. The production and use of renewable energy too has made significant gains, especially in the electricity sector.
Still, specific attention is needed in improving access to clean and safe cooking fuels and technology for over 3 billion people. There is also room for improvement of the use of renewable energy beyond just electricity and focused attention is required to increase electrification, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Let’s look at what progress has been made in this goal below.
Progress in modern energy
While good progress has been made in ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, 13 per cent of the global population still lacks access to modern electricity. This percentage may not seem very high, but given the advances in modern technology and the trajectory in which technology in the electricity sector is heading, this statistic is pretty significant.
In terms of energy outside of electricity, as mentioned above, over 3 billion people still lack access to modern cooking technology, having to rely on wood, charcoal, coal or animal waste as a means of fuel for cooking. Non-renewable energy is the dominant contributor when it comes to climate change and global warming, and accounts for approximately 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
The use of the combustible fuels mentioned in the above paragraph increases indoor air pollution and consequently increases the risk of health and safety issues associated with burning these materials. The use of combustible fuels for household energy caused 4.3 million deaths in 2012 alone, with women and girls accounting for six out of every 10 of these deaths.
However, the prevalence and use of renewable energy has indeed increased, with the percentage of renewable energy in total final energy consumption increasing rapidly since 2016. That year saw a rapid increase in renewable energy as compared to the years preceding it, owing to a rapid growth in hydropower, wind and solar energies.
Goal 7 targets
This goal aims to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy sources for all by the year 2030. Additionally, it aims to significantly increasing the share of renewable energy in the total global energy consumption. This includes doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency. Thus the goal isn’t simply ensuring access to energy for all, it is heavily focussed on ensuring that this energy is clean and sustainable, with minimal impact on climate change and related issues.
Goal 7, like all other SDGs aims to meet its targets by increasing international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology. This includes research and development of renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleaner fossil fuel technology. Goal 7 also aims to promote global investment in energy infrastructure and cleaner energy technology.
By 2030, Goal 7 aims to expand infrastructure and upgrade technology used to supply modern and sustainable energy for all, particularly in developing and least developed countries.
The effects of the global pandemic
A lack of access to energy may hamper any efforts to contain COVID-19 in several parts of the world. Energy services power healthcare facilities and life-support machines, supply clean water and enable communications and IT services that connect people to each other, especially in lockdown conditions. Without these services, the already gargantuan task of fighting the pandemic becomes infinitely more difficult. Thus, energy services are key to preventing and fighting pandemics.
Over 789 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity, and hundreds of millions more only have limited or unreliable access. In this region, estimates show that only 28 per cent of healthcare facilities have access to reliable sources of electricity, energy that is critical to keep these facilities up and running especially during the pandemic. A lack of access to electrical energy magnifies human catastrophe and impacts the rate of global recovery significantly.
Thus, there is a severe need, especially in this region and some areas in Asia, for a re-evaluation of global energy strategies to meet needs in these unprecedented times. Global cooperation is essential to figuring out the new trajectory goal 7 must take to stay on track with its 2030 agenda.
Join us next week for a discussion of SDG 8!