The UN HLPF 2023 convened its Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report & Policy Briefs 2023 Meeting on Tuesday, July 11, to discuss SDG7 progress and challenges. SDG7 aims to provide affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy access for all. The meeting emphasized the significance of energy access, clean cooking, renewable energy, and financing for sustainable development and climate change mitigation. It urged immediate action to accelerate the transition to clean energy sources. Additionally, it highlighted the interconnectedness between energy and other goals like poverty, health, education, gender equality, and climate action. It is worth noting, SDG 2, Zero Hunger, was not mentioned in the interconnected goals discussion.
This summary provides an overview of the key discussions and statistics presented during the meeting, with a particular focus on energy access, Africa, and renewable energy.
Renewable Energy Progress
The meeting acknowledged the positive developments in renewable energy, particularly in the electricity sector. It was noted that renewable energy capacity had increased, driven by advancements in solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind technologies. However, the progress in renewable energy deployment remained limited in sectors such as heat and transport, which account for the majority of energy consumption worldwide.
Disparities in Renewable Energy Access
Geographical disparities in renewable energy access were highlighted, with Latin America and Europe leading in renewable energy deployment. In contrast, progress in least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states was relatively slow. African countries, in particular, faced significant challenges in achieving universal energy access and renewable energy deployment.
Energy Access Challenges in Africa
Access to clean cooking and electricity in Africa emerged as a pressing concern. The meeting emphasized the urgent need to address the lack of clean cooking facilities, as it posed health risks and contributed to air pollution. Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that household air pollution caused by polluting fuels and technologies for cooking resulted in 3.2 million premature deaths annually. Accelerated efforts are needed to achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2030, particularly in 41 sub-Saharan African countries. An additional 8 to 11 percentage points increase per year is necessary to reach 100% access by 2030.
Financing and International Cooperation
International public financial flows in support of clean energy in developing countries decreased to $10.8 billion in 2021, reflecting an 11% decline from the previous year. This is only 40% of the peak level in 2017, indicating a decreasing trend. The top recipients of financial commitments were India, Pakistan, Brazil, and Mexico, while many vulnerable countries received a disproportionately small share–there were no African countries on the list. It is imperative to redirect investments from fossil fuels to renewables and increase financial support for clean energy and climate adaptation in developing countries.
Scaling Up Renewable Energy Efforts
To achieve the SDG7 targets, it was emphasized that efforts to scale up renewable energy deployment needed to be significantly intensified. The meeting highlighted the need for additional investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, calling for a tripling of global investments in these areas in the lead-up to 2030. It was also emphasized that renewable energy should be prioritized over fossil fuels, requiring a meaningful shift in subsidies and the implementation of carbon pricing mechanisms.
Role of International Cooperation and Gender Empowerment
The meeting stressed the importance of international cooperation in supporting developing countries' energy access and climate goals. It called for increased financial support and investment in the most vulnerable countries, with a focus on energy access and climate adaptation. Additionally, gender equality and women's empowerment were highlighted as critical factors in achieving SDG7, emphasizing the need for equal representation of women in decision-making and workforce participation in the energy sector.
The SDG7 Technical Advisory Group presented concrete recommendations, including the establishment of a permanent platform for intergovernmental dialogue on energy at the United Nations. This platform would strengthen cooperation and inclusivity in addressing energy challenges. Recommendations also emphasized the need to triple global investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2030, shift fossil fuel subsidies towards renewables, and implement carbon pricing mechanisms. Gender equality, regional cooperation, and the integration of SDG7 with other goals were also highlighted as crucial aspects.
By prioritizing renewable energy and empowering women in the energy sector, the world can make significant strides towards achieving SDG7 and ensuring a sustainable future for all.