Sustainable Development Goal 7

When you wake up hungry in the morning, what do you do? It's likely you fire up your stove or turn on your toaster and coffee machine and make yourself breakfast. This is normal to you and presumably doesn't involve having to collect any kind of solid fuel to make it happen. You also probably don't have to worry about excess smoke inhalation, unless you've burnt your bacon. But seriously, there are billions of people who don't have these luxuries. They don't have ready access to non-solid fuel or in many cases, any type of fuel. Additionally, they may often inhale way too much smoke while preparing meals or heating their homes. Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) is specifically supposed to combat this lack of access to proper energy sources. Continue to read to discover more about it.

Sustainable Development Goal 7 Sustainable Development Goal 7

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Table of contents

    Goal 7 Affordable and Clean Energy

    Sustainable Development Goal 7 aims to

    ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 1

    The goal is necessary because a significant proportion of the earth's population does not have access to proper energy sources, much less to sustainable energy sources.

    Facts about global access to energy:

    • About 1 billion people on earth are without electricity.
    • About 3 billion people rely on solid fuels such as wood and charcoal, amongst others, to cook and for heat.
    • Annually, approximately 4 million people die from household air pollution due to inefficient cooking practices.2

    Globally, the lack of access to proper energy sources has hindered development, and, more specifically, sustainable development for many. As a result, the achievement of SDG 7 will create opportunities for billions of people. Continued, uncontrollable use of non-renewable energy resources increases pollution and contributes to global warming and, by extension, climate change. Having access to reliable and sustainable energy will therefore contribute to poverty alleviation, control climate change and promote a more sustainable world as envisioned by the Sustainable Development Goals. Consequently, without the success of SDG 7, it will be challenging to achieve the 2030 Agenda along with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

    The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international agreement on climate change, signed by 196 global parties. It aims to ensure that global warming is limited to less than 2oC, with the preferred scenario being 1.5oC, compared to pre-industrial levels. (The 6th IPCC Report has indicated that based on current emissions, we are on course to reach 1.5oC in warming by 2040.) The Paris Agreement was adopted during COP21, in Paris on December 12, 2015, and came into force on November 4, 2016.

    It has been posited that, in theory, the achievement of SDG 7 should be possible because global energy transformation is already underway. In Brazil, 46% of the total energy comes from renewable sources and if we look specifically at electricity for that country, 83% is generated from renewable energy. On a more global level, hydroelectric power provides 16% of the world's electricity and bioenergy, which is the largest renewable energy source, provides 10% of the world's energy supply.

    Sustainable Development Goal 7 Itaipu Dam, Brazil-Paraguay borderFig. 1 - Itaipu Dam, Brazil-Paraguay border- 2nd largest hydroelectric dam in the world

    However, the theory does not always pan out for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to:

    1. Energy efficiency is often overlooked and remains underdeveloped
    2. It is difficult to change mindsets toward more renewable energy
    3. It is challenging to reach people in very remote parts of the world to give them access to energy
    4. The transition from coal is challenging for economies that still utilize it as a significant source of energy.

    In further sections, we shall examine the actual progress toward the achievement of SDG 7.

    SDG 7 Targets and Indicators

    SDG 7 has five targets and six indicators for its achievement by 2030. The targets and indicators are presented below.

    Table 14,5

    Target #Target DescriptionIndicator #Indicator DescriptionUnit of Measurement
    7.1"By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services."7.1.17.1.2The proportion of the population with access to electricityThe proportion of the population with access to clean fuels for cookingPercent
    7.2"By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix" (energy mix includes those used for heating/cooking, electricity, and transportation).7.2.1The share of renewable energy in the total final consumptionPercent
    7.3"By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency."7.3.1Energy intensity measured as the amount of energy used to create 1 unit of economic outputMegajoules per unit of purchasing power parity in constant 2017 USD figures
    7.A "By 2030, 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.A.1The amount of money invested into developing countries for research and development of clean energy as well as the production of renewable energy. This also includes hybrid systems. Million USD at constant prices for a base year (base year is usually 2 years behind publication year)
    7.B"By 2030, 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 landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support."7.B.1The energy-generating capacity of the installed renewable energy infrastructure in developing countriesWatts per capita

    Progress in Energy Efficiency

    On average, improvements toward energy efficiency remain below the targets set by the SDGs. Between 2010 and 2019, the global average rate of improvement in energy intensity (the measurement of energy efficiency) was 1.9 percent. This rate, which, although greater than the 1990-2010 average increase of 1.2 percent, was well below the 2.6 percent target annual improvement rate which is required to achieve SDG 7.3. Therefore, an average annual energy intensity improvement rate of 3.2 percent would be needed from 2020 onwards to meet the target. Unfortunately, initial estimates have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic significantly decreased the 2020 rate and the 2021 rate shows a return to the 2010-2019 average. Consequently, it is doubtful whether this aspect of SDG 7 can be achieved by 2030.

    Regional Variations in the Progress in Energy Efficiency

    When disaggregated by region, there are marked differences. Eastern Asia and Southeast Asia are the only two regions to surpass the target of 2.6 percent. Between 2010-2019, both recorded annual average improvements in their energy efficiency of 2.7 percent. While being lower than the target average annual rate of improvement, Oceania (2.2 percent), North America, Europe, Central Asia, and Southern Asia (2.0 percent each) were all above the global average of 1.9 percent. Latin America and the Caribbean had by far the lowest annual average rate of increase in energy efficiency with 0.6 percent. Other regions with low rates include Western Asia, Northern Africa (1.2 percent each), and Sub-Saharan Africa (1.3 percent). These regional differences mimic variations in economic structure, energy supply, and access to energy.

    It should also be noted that Latin America and the Caribbean is the least energy-intensive region in the world. This means that it takes the least amount of energy to produce one unit of economic output in this region which would explain why its rate of improvement in energy efficiency is also the lowest globally.

    Sustainable Development Goal 7 Global energy efficiencyFig. 2 - Global energy efficiency represented as energy intensity, 2019

    Progress in Electrification

    Globally, the proportion of the world's population with access to electricity increased from 83 percent in 2010 to 91 percent in 2020. In raw figures, this meant the inclusion of an additional 1.3 billion persons in global electrification. Similarly, those without electricity declined to 733 million over the period.

    Most notably, between 2010-2020, 45 countries achieved universal electricity access—19 of which were from Latin America and the Caribbean. While this is encouraging, it must be noted that the annual global rate of electrification has decreased from 0.8 percent between 2010-2018 to 0.5 percent from 2018-2020. There have also been individual countries in which access to electricity declined. This is because it has become increasingly more difficult to reach the most remote and poorest populations along with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve target 7.1 under SDG 7, the annual rate of electrification will have to increase to 0.9 percent, which means that efforts will have to be improved to reach these populations.

    Regional Variations in the Progress in Electrification

    Generally, economically less developed countries tend to have lower rates of electrification with 55 percent access in 2020. Similarly, fragile, conflict, and violence (FCV) countries have also only managed to electrify 55 percent of their populations. Furthermore, the majority of people without access to electricity are located in Sub-Saharan Africa (568 million). In addition, here, their proportion of global access deficiencies increased from 71 percent in 2018 to 77 percent in 2020.

    Globally, there are also variations as it relates to rural versus urban areas. Overall, rural areas have higher levels of electricity deficits, but higher rates of electrification. About 80 percent of the global population without electricity live in rural areas. However, between 2010 and 2020 rural access to electricity increased from 72 to 83 percent. Urban access to electricity has remained fairly consistent since 2016 at 97 percent. At the current rate of electrification, it is highly unlikely that rural electrification will meet the 2030 target under SDG 7, however, urban electrification is expected to be more or less universal by then.

    Sustainable Development Goal 7 Global rates of electrification, 2020Fig. 3 - Global rates of electrification, 2020

    Sustainable Development Goal 7 - Key takeaways

    • SDG7 aims to ensure that there is universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy.
    • The achievement of SDG 7 is integral to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals as lack of access to affordable and clean energy hinders sustainable development.
    • Progress toward achieving SDG 7 is measured using 5 targets and 6 indicators.
    • Achieving SDG 7 remains a challenge for different reasons.
    • Although there has been some progress, it is unlikely that energy efficiency (target 7.3) will be met by 2030.
    • For target 7.1, urban electrification will be universal by 2030, however, there will still be deficits in rural electrification by this deadline.

    References

    1. UNEP (n.d.). "Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy". Accessed October 10, 2022.
    2. UNEP (n.d.). "Issue Brief SDG 7". Accessed October 10, 2022.
    3. UNSTATS 2022. "SDG Indicators Metadata repository". Sustainable Development Goals. Accessed October 15, 2022.
    4. Ritchie, Roser, Mispy, Ortiz-Ospina (2018). "Measuring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals." SDGTracker website. Accessed October 15, 2022.
    5. Fig. 1: Itaipu Dam, Brazil-Paraguay border- 2nd largest hydroelectric dam in the world (https://wordpress.org/openverse/image/c8fa1d92-7c23-4297-aa06-00f96daa2fcb) by Leandro's World Tour (https://www.flickr.com/photos/18115835@N00/with/8155763889/) Licensed by CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse)
    6. Fig. 2: Global energy efficiency represented as energy intensity, 2019 (https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/energy-intensity-of-economies) by Our World in Data (https://ourworldindata.org/) Licensed by CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en_US)
    7. Fig. 3: Global rates of electrification, 2020 (https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/share-of-the-population-with-access-to-electricity) by Our World in Data (https://ourworldindata.org) Licensed by CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en_US)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Sustainable Development Goal 7

    What is the 7th goal of Sustainable development? 

    SDG 7 aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. 

    What are the challenges of SDG 7? 

    The challenges of SDG 7 include, but are not limited to, the overlooking of energy efficiency, difficulty in changing mindsets toward renewable energy sources, challenges in reaching people in remote areas, and challenges in transitioning from coal in some economies. 

    How many targets does SDG 7 have? 

    SDG 7 has 5 targets and 6 indicators. 

    How can individual actions contribute to achieving SDG 7? 

    Individual actions can contribute to SDG 7 by adopting energy-efficient practices, shifting to renewable energy sources for daily use, promoting and investing in clean energy technology, and advocating for policies that reduce fossil fuel use and increase access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
    What initiatives have been made globally to achieve SDG 7?
    Globally, numerous initiatives have been made to achieve SDG 7 including the formation of the International Renewable Energy Agency, the SE4ALL programme by the UN, the implementation of renewable energy technologies, and energy efficiency measures. These initiatives aim to increase access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is the goal of SDG 7?

    Approximately how many people on earth die from household air pollution due to inefficient cooking practices annually?

    How many indicators are there for SDG 7?

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