World falling short on SDG 7 targets, says IEA

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To meet Sustainable Development Goal 7 by 2030, countries must safeguard the gains already attained and accelerate efforts to achieve affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

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, according to the new Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report released 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 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.

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.

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. 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.

Key highlights on Renewables: The share of renewables in the global energy mix reached 17.3% of final energy consumption in 2017, up from 17.2% in 2016 and 16.3% in 2010. Renewables consumption (+2.5% in 2017) is growing faster than global energy consumption (+1.8% in 2017), continuing a trend in evidence since 2011. Most of the growth in renewables has occurred in the electricity sector, thanks to the rapid expansion of wind and solar power that has been enabled by sustained policy support and falling costs. Meanwhile, the use of renewables in heating and transport is lagging. An acceleration of renewables across all sectors will be needed to achieve SDG target 7.2. The full impact of the Covid-19 crisis on renewables is yet to become clear. Disruption to supply chains and other areas risks delaying deployments of wind and solar PV. The growth of electricity generation from renewables appears to have slowed down as a result of the pandemic, according to the available data. But they so far appear to be holding up much better than other major fuels such as coal and natural gas.

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