In a report, 'Tracking Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7): Energy Progress', international organisations have warned that universal access to energy by 2030 will fall short unless efforts are scaled up significantly.
According to the authors − the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), the United Nations Statistics Division, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation – significant progress had been made on various aspects of this goal prior to the Covid-19 crisis.
This includes a notable reduction in the number of people worldwide lacking access to electricity, strong uptake of renewable energy for electricity generation and improvements in energy efficiency.
“However, despite these advances, global efforts remain insufficient to reach the key targets of SDG 7 by 2030,” the report states.
The number of people without access to electricity declined from 1.2-billion in 2010 to 789-million in 2018; however, under policies that were either in place or planned before the start of the Covid-19 crisis, an estimated 620-million people would still lack access in 2030, with 85% of them being in sub-Saharan Africa.
The authors say an acceleration of renewables across all sectors is required to move closer to reaching the SDG 7 target, with advances in heating and transport currently lagging far behind their potential.
“Accelerating the pace of progress in all regions and sectors will require stronger political commitment, long-term energy planning, increased public and private financing, and adequate policy and fiscal incentives to spur faster deployment of new technologies.
“An increased emphasis on ‘leaving no one behind’ is required, given the large proportion of the population without access in remote, rural, poorer and vulnerable communities,” the authors state.
The report introduces tracking on a new indicator on international financial flows to developing countries in support of clean and renewable energy.
Although total flows have doubled since 2010, reaching $21.4-billion in 2017, only 12% reached the least-developed countries, which are the furthest from achieving the various SDG 7 targets.
The report further presents policymakers and development partners with global, regional and country-level data to inform decisions and identify priorities for a sustainable recovery from Covid-19 that scales up affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.
This collaborative work highlights once more the importance of reliable data to inform policy-making as well as the opportunity to enhance data quality through international cooperation to further strengthen national capacities.
The report has been transmitted by SDG 7 custodian agencies to the United Nations secretary-general to inform the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s annual review.
IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol says the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the deep inequalities around the world in terms of access to modern, affordable and sustainable energy.
“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 – to build more prosperous and resilient economies.”
World Bank energy director Riccardo Puliti comments that access to reliable energy is a lifeline, especially in the context of the Covid-19 crisis.
“It is essential not only for preventing and addressing the pandemic but also for accelerating the recovery and building back better by securing a more sustainable and resilient future for all.”
Irena director-general Francesco La Camera notes that renewable energy is key to achieving SDG 7; now is the time for bold international cooperation to bridge the energy access gap and place sustainable energy at the heart of economic stimulus and recovery measures.