Universal access to energy is yet to become a reality. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 1.2 billion people currently live without access to electricity.
This situation is all the more concerning as access to energy is a prerequisite for economic development and the provision of basic services like lighting and heating of infrastructure, such as schools and hospital facilities, cooking and food preservation. In the words of the former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) Ban Ki Moon, “Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability”. The implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) to “ensure access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all” is therefore a priority. Its three main targets are to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix and double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.
Supporting the implementation of SDG7 in developing countries is a priority for the EU’s development and cooperation policies. The EU has indeed committed to helping developing countries provide energy access to 500 million people under the framework of the global initiative “Sustainable Energy for all”. Moreover, 30 developing countries, including 15 in Sub-Saharan Africa, have made of energy their focal sector of cooperation with the EU for the 2014-2020 period.
At the same time, developing and least developed countries have reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Paris agreement and limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational target of 1.5°C.5 The need to adopt climate change mitigation measures and to transform the energy sector, which remains the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, has thus been gathering considerable momentum. This provides an opportunity to implement SDG7 in a way that is consistent with climate objectives. In the “European Consensus on Development”, which updates the EU’s development policy framework in order to be consistent with the SDGs, the EU and its member states recognise that the objectives of SDG7 and the Paris agreement are interlinked and pledge to pursue them in their development policies.
The EU has the capacity to help developing countries achieve both energy and climate objectives through a mix of instruments, which include financial instruments, partnerships and technical assistance. With the international political and economic context providing opportunities to increase its support, the EU can use the tools at its disposal in a more coherent and efficient way.
The 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) meeting in Bonn was chaired for the first time by a small island state relying on international support to deal with the effects of climate change, the Fiji Islands. After this meeting, the international community should have a closer look at how EU pledges have been implemented so far and what still needs to be done to improve efforts to achieve SDG7 targets. Link to the full report and summary