Despite accelerated progress over the past decade, the world will fall short of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030 unless efforts are scaled up significantly, reveals the new Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report.
The report has been prepared 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).
According to the report, significant progress had been made on various aspects of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 prior to the start of 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.
Despite these advances, global efforts remain insufficient to reach the key targets of SDG 7 by 2030.
“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,” noted Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of IEA.
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, 85% of them in sub-Saharan Africa. SDG 7 calls for universal energy access by 2030.
Other important elements of the SDG 7 goal also continue to be off track. Almost 3 billion people remained without access to clean cooking in 2017, mainly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Largely stagnant progress since 2010 leads to millions of deaths each year from breathing cooking smoke. The share of renewable energy in the global energy mix is only inching up gradually, despite the rapid growth of wind and solar power in electricity generation.
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.
Following strong progress on global energy efficiency between 2015 and 2016, the pace has slackened.
The report says the rate of improvement needs to speed up dramatically, from 1.7% in 2017 to at least 3% in coming years.
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.
Riccardo Puliti, Global Director for Energy and Extractive Industries and Regional Director for Infrastructure in Africa at the World Bank, commented: “The report provides solid data and evidence that build the case for why it is necessary to act now, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where under the status quo, 530 million people–or more than two times the population of Nigeria–will still be without electricity in 2030.”
Moving towards the 2030 Agenda
The 2020 report introduces tracking on a new indicator, 7.A.1, 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 five custodian agencies of the report were designated by the UN Statistical Commission to compile and verify country data, along with regional and global aggregates, in relation to the progress in achieving the SDG 7 goals.
“This report is an exemplar case of cooperation between the custodian agencies of SDG 7 to present comprehensive data and analysis, delivering a common message regarding the progress towards ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
As to the current situation, it concludes that the COVID-19 pandemic can either widen the sustainable energy access gaps or accelerate the path towards achieving SDG 7, depending mostly on priorities of national economic stimulus packages and the global response to support those most in need,” said Stefan Schweinfest, UNSD Director.
The report 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 policymaking 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.
Access the Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report here