Energy is a key component of sustainable development. It is necessary not only for economic growth, but also to provide for basic needs of human development, such as lighting, heating/cooling, and transportation. Targets like ensuring universal access to energy, increasing the share of renewable sources, improving the rate in energy efficiency under the SDG 7 (“Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”) will require a decisive shift away from the “business as usual” energy development model.
Nowadays, 1.3 billion people still don’t have access to electricity, and 2.8 billion are missing clean and safe cooking facilities, most of which in rural areas of Sub-Saharan African and South Asia. In consequence, 4.3 million premature deaths occur each year as a result of household air pollution caused by burning solids the traditional way.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must address this gap and ensure that energy is accessible for all to fulfill the basic human needs by 2030. The current consumption patterns of energy are incompatible with the planet´s capacity to absorb the CO2 emitted by fossil fuels, and therefore there is a need to make a shift towards modern energy sources in order to provide energy for those who still don’t have access and to respect the planets limits. Unsustainable patterns of energy production and consumption are threats not only to human health and quality of life but they are also affecting ecosystems and contributing to climate change. Renewables such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro and marine power contributed to an estimated 9.1% of the world´s energy generation in 2014, compared to 8.5% in the previous year. Though the share of renewables is increasing, it must do so in a larger pace in order to ensure that the necessities of people and the planet are met in the next years.
Knowing that sustainable energy can be the power for poverty reduction, social progress, equity, enhanced resilience, economic growth, and environmental sustainability, several countries have taken the lead to develop new sources of clean energy and increase their population’s access:
- Together with UNDP, Tunisia is leading an ambitious initiative to develop solar energy through public-private partnership that is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 1.3 million tons until 2016.
- The government of Barbados also is a known example by providing tax incentives to stimulate the construction of solar water heaters on the island.
- As another bold initiative, Costa Rica already generates 98% of its energy through renewable sources. This year the country has run with 100% of renewable energy for 94 consecutive days.
- Moreover, Kenya is one of the largest producers of geothermal energy in terms of total power production in Africa.
- It is also important that countries which are responsible for large CO2 emissions commit to change to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. China, together with the USA and India, is nowadays the largest emitter of CO2, but then it is also the biggest investor in renewable energy. In 2014, the country invested a record of $83.3 billion in research and development for making its energy sources more diverse and efficient.
The United Nations has declared the decade of 2014-2024 as the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All). Accordingly, UNDP is also engaged with the SE4All initiative to provide universal access to energy services, improve energy efficiency and double the share of renewable energy available in the planet by 2030. The newly launched “EnergyPlus” Guidelines will provide guidance for countries to promote the necessary changes in its energy grid. So far, UNDP has supported over 120 developing and middle-income countries with comprehensive policies and programs focusing on energy access, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.
Read our blog on Sustainable Cities to see how energy is related to urban centres, and our blog on the Industry and Infrastructure to see what innovations will be needed to achieve a more sustainable future for all.
Get to know the other SDGs at www.globalgoals.org!