The world is falling short of achieving the SDG 7 for energy

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The world is falling short of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 for energy by 2030, according to a report.

SDG 7 encompasses various targets, including universal access to electricity and clean cooking, significant improvements in energy efficiency, and a substantial increase in the use of renewable energy sources.

Fulfilling this goal would have profound effects on people’s health and well-being, protecting them from environmental and social risks like air pollution, while also expanding access to essential healthcare and services, 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) said in its report.

Estimates from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reveal that international public financial support for clean energy in low- and middle-income countries has been declining even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding remains limited to only a few countries. It is imperative to undertake structural reforms in international public finance and explore new opportunities to unlock investments to meet the targets of SDG 7 and ensure that people can fully benefit from the socio-economic advantages of transitioning to sustainable energy.

The report also highlights that mounting debt and rising energy prices are worsening the prospects of achieving universal access to clean cooking and electricity. Projections indicate that if further action is not taken, approximately 1.9 billion people will still lack clean cooking facilities by 2030, and 660 million will remain without access to electricity.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 3.2 million people die annually due to illnesses caused by the use of polluting fuels and technologies, leading to increased exposure to hazardous levels of household air pollution.

Key findings from the report include:

In 2010, 84 percent of the global population had access to electricity, which increased to 91 percent in 2021. This means that over a billion people gained access during that period. However, the pace of growth in access has slowed down in 2019-2021 compared to previous years, with a significant gap remaining in urban areas despite efforts towards rural electrification.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 567 million people lacked access to electricity in 2021, accounting for over 80 percent of the global population without access. The access deficit in this region has remained nearly the same since 2010.

Universal access to clean cooking remains unattainable by 2030. Approximately 2.3 billion people still rely on polluting fuels and technologies for cooking, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Additionally, the use of traditional biomass forces households to spend up to 40 hours each week collecting firewood and cooking, hindering women’s employment opportunities, participation in decision-making, and children’s access to education.

Household air pollution caused by the use of polluting fuels and technologies for cooking contributes to an estimated 3.2 million premature deaths each year, according to 2019 WHO estimates.

The share of renewable electricity in global consumption increased from 26.3 percent in 2019 to 28.2 percent in 2020.

Efforts aimed at increasing the proportion of renewable energy used for heating and transportation, which account for over three quarters of global energy consumption, are currently falling short of the targets required to achieve the climate objectives of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

During the period of 2010 to 2020, the energy intensity of the global economy, which measures the amount of energy used per unit of GDP, showed an annual improvement rate of 1.8 percent. This represents a higher rate of improvement compared to previous decades, which saw a 1.2 percent increase.

In recent years, the rate of energy intensity improvement has slowed down significantly, reaching just 0.6 percent in 2020. This marks the lowest level of improvement since the global financial crisis, primarily due to restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic.  In order to meet the SDG target 7.3, annual improvements must now average 3.4 percent until 2030.

International public financial support for clean energy in developing countries reached a total of $10.8 billion in 2021. This amount is 35 percent lower than the average recorded between 2010 and 2019, and it represents only 40 percent of the peak amount of $26.4 billion achieved in 2017. In 2021, 19 countries received 80 percent of these financial commitments.

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