Global green transition and electrification progress slowing
The Tracking SDG 7: Energy Progress Report notes that the world is not on track to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 and that if this continues, it will pose a threat to the global green transition and electrification process.
Recently, the International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the United Nations Statistics Division, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, five major international agencies, jointly released the “Tracking Sustainable Development Goal 7: Energy Progress Report” (hereinafter referred to as “the Report”) pointed out that the world is not on track to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7, and if the situation develops in this way, it will bring threats to the global green transition and electrification process.
Off track to achieve the goal
It is understood that the United Nations has set 17 global sustainable development goals designed to guide global development efforts from 2015-2030. Among them, SDG 7 is to achieve affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all people worldwide by 2030, including universal access to electricity and clean cooking, doubling energy efficiency while significantly increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
According to the Report’s data, the global share of electricity from renewable sources has grown from 26.3 percent in 2019 to 28.2 percent in 2020, the largest single-year increase since progress on the SDGs began tracking in 2015. But even that is still not enough to keep SDG 7 on track.
The five major international agencies warned that “current efforts are not enough and the world is getting off track to achieve SDG 7.”
The IEA noted that the global energy crisis is expected to continue to spur renewable energy deployment and energy efficiency improvements, but growing debt and rising energy prices are preventing universal access to clean cooking and electricity. “The energy crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to have a profound impact worldwide, with high energy prices hitting the most vulnerable groups in developing economies particularly hard.” Fatih Birol, Director of the International Energy Agency, confessed.
The World Bank called for urgent global measures to ensure that the poorest and most disadvantaged groups are not left behind. Fatih Birol added: “While the transition to clean energy is happening faster than many people think, there is still a long way to go to provide sustainable, secure and affordable modern energy to billions of people without energy.”
Electrification slowing down
Notably, the five major international agencies noted in the Report that the share of the global population with access to electricity grew from 84% to 91% between 2010 and 2021, equivalent to more than one billion people having access to electricity during those years, but that this growth trend slowed slightly between 2019 and 2021.
In response, Steffen Schwandstedt, director of the United Nations Statistics Division, said the global population without electricity has almost halved in the past 10 years, but electrification is moving slower and slower. “This urges us to urgently take additional measures to further scale up clean energy investments and strengthen related policy support.”
Not coincidentally, the World Energy Council has made a similar prediction that by 2050, about half of the world’s energy systems will still not be electrified, which would pose a threat to net-zero emissions targets in multiple countries. Angela Wilkinson, CEO of the World Energy Council, said, “The world’s energy system is no longer in line with net zero targets and the green energy transition is slowing down.”
Uneven flow of green money
The Report also finds that $10.8 billion of international public funding to support the development of clean energy in 2021 will go to developing countries, 35% below the average between 2010 and 2019 and only about 40% of the 2017 peak. Most of the funds are in the hands of a few developing countries, with 19 of them accounting for 80% of the financial commitments. In other words, the flow of green funds to developing countries and lagging economies is actually uneven.
In response, IRENA Director General LaCamera said, “There is an urgent need for multilateral financial institutions to guide a more equitable flow of funds globally to support renewable energy deployment and related infrastructure.”
IRENA noted that international public funding to support clean energy development in low-income, middle-income economies has been declining since 2019. To achieve SDG 7, structural reforms to international public finance are necessary and new investment opportunities need to be identified to be unlocked.
Disparities exist between regions
5 major international agencies found that in 2021, 567 million people in sub-Saharan Africa will still be without access to electricity, representing more than 80% of the global population without access to electricity. At the same time, up to 2.3 billion people worldwide continue to cook using polluting fuels and methods, including firewood, most of whom also live in sub-Saharan Africa. It is clear that there are still significant regional disparities in access to electricity and clean cooking globally, and the five major international agencies believe that this should be a priority for action, particularly in terms of investment in the least developed countries and sub-Saharan Africa, to ensure more equitable progress towards SDG 7.
According to the World Health Organization, diseases caused by the use of polluting fuels and technologies claim the lives of 3.2 million people each year.
Five major international agencies project that by 2030, at the current pace and scale of development, 660 million people will still lack access to electricity and 1.9 billion people will not have daily access to clean energy.
Green transition situation is serious
To sum up, the Report believes that the global green energy transition situation is very serious. According to the latest findings of the World Energy Council, 64% of the world’s economies are concerned about the world’s green transition situation.
“This may be due to the new crown pneumonia epidemic, geopolitical conflicts and other factors that pose a threat to energy security.” Angela Wilkinson said, “Energy and the economy are maintaining a delicate balance in the face of an intensifying global recession. Energy security interests and the green technology race have become the biggest obstacles to the green transition.”
It is understood that 59 percent of respondents believe that energy independence is critical to ensuring their country’s climate energy security. However, 84 percent of respondents also believe that energy interdependence is the new global reality.
In Angela Wilkinson’s view, advancing the green transition should be a collaborative effort by many. “Effectively managing, choosing and weighing the relationship between energy security, affordability and sustainability is the best way to avoid a disorderly green transition and to address climate-resilient energy development.”