Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

The 7th goal of the UN is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. A well-established energy system supports all sectors: from businesses, medicine and education to agriculture, infrastructure, communications and high-technology. It is central to every major challenge and opportunity that the world faces today. The real challenge is that there is no development without fuelling the engine of growth. Energy is critical and people with no sustainable access to energy are deprived of the opportunity to become part of national and global progress.

According to Ban Ki-Moon, the former UN Secretary-General,“Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability. With access to energy, people can study, go to university, get a job, start a business – and reach their full potential”. Sustainable energy generates opportunities by transforming lives, economies and the planet. There are substantial health benefits to having access to electricity and an improvement in one’s well being.

Nevertheless, at the current time, there are approximately 3 billion people who lack access to clean-cooking solutions and are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution. Additionally, slightly less than 1 billion people are functioning without electricity and 50% of them are found in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Without electricity, women and girls have to spend hours fetching water, clinics cannot store vaccines for children, many schoolchildren cannot do homework at night, and people cannot run competitive businesses.

More focused attention is needed to improve access to clean and safe cooking fuels and technologies for 3 billion people, to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the electricity sector, and to increase electrification in sub-Saharan Africa.

WHY SHOULD ONE CARE ABOUT THIS ISSUE ?

For many decades, fossil fuels such as coal, oil or gas have been major sources of electricity production, but burning carbon fuels produces large amounts of greenhouse gases which cause climate change and have harmful impacts on people’s well-being and the environment. In a nutshell, without a stable electricity supply, countries will not be able to power their economies.

Increased use of fossil fuels without actions to mitigate greenhouse gases will have global climate change implications. This affects everyone, not just a few. Moreover, global electricity use is rising rapidly.

Energy efficiency and increased use of renewables contribute to climate change mitigation and disaster risk reduction. Maintaining and protecting ecosystems allow using and further developing hydropower sources of electricity and bioenergy.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE ?

Goal 7 aims to correct this enormous imbalance by ensuring everyone has access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services by the year 2030. 

To expand energy access, it is crucial to enhance energy efficiency and to invest in renewable energy. Asia has been the driver of progress in this area, expanding access twice the rate of demographic growth. 72% of the increase in energy consumption from modern renewable sources between 2010 and 2012 came from developing regions, including parts of Asia.

Another way is that countries can accelerate the transition to an affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy system by investing in renewable energy resources, prioritizing energy efficient practices, and adopting clean energy technologies and infrastructure. 

WHAT DOES THE UN AIM TO ACHIEVE ?

To achieve affordable and clean energy, the UN has set certain targets which are as follows:-

  • Target 7.1: By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
  • Target 7.2: By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  • Target 7.3: By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • Target 7.a: By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology
  • Target 7.b: By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support.

The enterprises that were providing off-grid electricity connections and clean cooking solutions experienced severe disruptions due to COVID-19, with many suspending operations and some at risk of collapsing. 

However, the UN is now working with partners to provide a data-driven perspective on the impacts and support needed by these enterprises, as well as to helping coordinate and target support so they can continue to operate and expand.