Sustainable Development Goal 7, Affordable and Clean Energy, is put forward as a “key” challenge for the future of our societies; let’s see why
Can you imagine your life without access to energy, without electricity? We live in a world where access to reliable and sustainable energy is becoming a fundamental issue for the development of a community or a society. Providing the most essential services (education, medicine, agriculture, industry, infrastructures, communications, etc.) would become a real odyssey, making it practically impossible to lead a dignified life. This situation, which for many might be merely hypothetical, is a reality for 1.2 billion people around the world, for whom access to modern electricity services is still a pipe dream. Most of these people, whom Sustainable Development Goal 7 aims to help, are concentrated in a dozen countries in Africa and Asia. In addition, nearly three billion people (roughly three times the population of China) still rely on burning wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook and heat their food every day.
Turning this and other energy-related pipe dreams into reality worldwide is the reason why, during the process of drafting the 2030 Agenda, the UN Member States established Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7): Affordable and Clean Energy. Besides access to electricity as such, this challenge involves eliminating the pollutant gene that predominates in much of the energy we consume in our everyday lives. We should not forget that around 60% of all global greenhouse gas emissions stem from energy generation and consumption, which is why a change in the generation model towards renewable energies (only 17.5% of total global energy consumed in 2015 came from renewable sources) and the electrification of the economy are key to meeting this challenge.
Moreover, it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that using this type of polluting energy not only harms the environment but also affects people’s health. So much so that, in addition to the diseases that pollution causes in our societies, indoor air pollution due to fuels being used to heat homes or food is responsible for four million premature deaths every year.
What are the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 7?
As with the other Sustainable Development Goals, the solution to the problems outlined above requires meeting a number of tangible targets over the next few years. Let’s see what they are:
- 7.1 Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
- 7.2 Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
- 7.3 Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
- 7.a 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
- 7.b 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
How much would it cost to achieve SDG 7?
Once the goals and proposed solutions have been established, it is time to think about how we can, from the economic point of view, tackle this problem. According to the United Nations itself, it would be necessary to triple the annual investment in sustainable energy infrastructures, raising the current expenditure figure of around 400 billion dollars to 1.25 trillion dollars by 2030.