Global push needed for sustainable electricity for all

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Michael Schwartz

The past decade has seen more people getting access to affordable electricity than ever before. Yet there is still much work to do to ensure everyone has access to it.

One of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG7) aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. However, those nations which remain most off the grid, are set to enter 2030 without meeting this goal unless efforts are significantly scaled up, warns the new study entitled Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report, published by the International Energy Agency (IAE), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), World Bank, and World Health Organization (WHO).

“Moving towards scaling up clean and sustainable energy is key to protect human health and to promote healthier populations, particularly in remote and rural areas”, said Maria Neira, WHO Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.

The report outlines significant but unequal progress on SDG7, noting that while more than one billion people globally gained access to electricity over the last decade, COVID’s financial impact so far, has made basic electricity services unaffordable for 30 million others, mostly in Africa.

“The Tracking SDG7 report shows that 90 percent of the global population now has access to electricity, but disparities exacerbated by the pandemic, if left unaddressed, may keep the sustainable energy goal out of reach, jeopardizing other SDGs and the Paris Agreement’s objectives”, said Mari Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships at the World Bank.

While the report also finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed some progress, Stefan Schweinfest, DESA’s Director of the Statistics Division, pointed out that this has presented “opportunities to integrate SDG 7-related policies in recovery packages and thus to scale up sustainable development”.

“On a global path to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, we can reach key sustainable energy targets by 2030 as we expand renewables in all sectors and increase energy efficiency”, said IAE Executive Director, Fatih Birol. “Greater efforts to mobilize and scale up investment are essential to ensure that energy access progress continues in developing economies”, he added.

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