Slow global progress towards clean energy for all

Slow global progress towards clean energy for all

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"We are not on track to meet our universal access goal by 2030, which is also the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on energy," warned Rachel Kyte, general director of Sustainable Energy for All, as well as special representative of the secretary general of the United Nations Organization (UN).

"We have to go further and faster together," Kyte proposed to the 1,500 delegates and ministers present at this year's Vienna Energy Forum, held in the second week of May and coordinated by the Organization of Nations. United for Industrial Development (Onudi).

Kyte reminded those present that SDG 7, "Ensuring Access to Affordable, Safe, Sustainable and Modern Energy for All" represents the promise of bringing decentralized and carbon-free energy to the entire world in order to transform the world and have "clean air, new jobs, warm schools, clean buses, piped water, and better production of nutritious food."

In addition, the international community set out to prevent the catastrophic consequences of climate change, for which it promised to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2050 within the framework of the Paris Agreement, signed in the French capital in 2015, he recalled, after which he asked himself: “why don't we move faster”.

At the current rate, one in 10 people will remain without power by 2030, according to the Global Tracking Framework 2017 report, the majority of whom will reside in Africa.

In Chad, Niger, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, only one in 10 people currently have electricity, a proportion that even decreases with population growth, said Elisa Portale, an economist at the World Bank, who presented the study carried out by this organization. .

Renewables, such as solar and wind, receive a great deal of general attention, but the world is not making progress towards the goal of decarbonizing 36 percent of the global energy system, and it will only reach 21 percent in 2030.

Currently, it is at 18 percent, as renewable alternatives include hydroelectric and biomass. Few countries have managed to increase the share of these clean sources by one percent a year, and others, such as Brazil and Canada, are in fact backtracking.

More progress is being made towards decarbonising electricity than energy used for heating and transport, which appears to be a greater challenge.

Furthermore, improvements in energy efficiency are also far behind. Investments in this area must be multiplied by three or six, compared to the current 250,000 million dollars a year to reach the goal in 2030, the World Bank report concludes.

The biggest problem uncovered by the study is that the current number of people still using traditional solid fuels for cooking increased slightly from 2011 to 3.04 billion. They are responsible for a large part of indoor air pollution, which reduces the lives of tens of millions of people and kills four million, mainly boys and girls, every year, according to the World Health Organization.

That appears to be a priority, and by 2030, only 72 percent of the world will use clean cooking fuels, Portale noted. In other words, 2.5 billion people, most of them in Asia Pacific and Africa, will continue to burn wood, charcoal or dung to cook their food.

Clean cooking is not a priority for most governments, although Indonesia has made progress on the matter, noted Vivien Foster, head of energy economics, markets and institutions at the World Bank.

"Indoor air pollution has a greater impact on health than HIV / AIDS and malaria combined," said Foster in a dialogue with IPS.

One of the reasons that clean cooking is not a priority is that men are the main decision-makers at the government and household level and are rarely involved in the kitchen. Environmental health issues receive much less attention from governments. "Unfortunately, cell phones come before toilets," Foster observed.

But in India, the situation is totally different.

Green energy, decarbonized and decentralized, is no longer expensive or difficult to achieve. It is also the most suitable alternative for developing countries because both access and benefits come quickly, explained India's Energy Minister Piyush Goyal.

Access to clean liquefied propane gas for cooking increased 33 percent in the last three years, representing about 190 million households. In the last year, 20 million of the poorest people received the service for free, Goyal told IPS.

There are millions of people who are not yet connected to the electricity grid, but the minister was confident that this will not be the case in 2019, three years before India's deadline to meet the target.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi is fully committed to achieving universal access," he said. "He grew up in poverty and knows what it is to not have electricity," he said.

India will add 160 gigawatts of wind and solar power by 2022 and could exceed the target, as the cost of both sources is well below that of coal, the main source of energy in that country.

By contrast, the United States currently only has a little over 100 gigawatts in total; and one gigawatt can power 100 million LED bulbs (light-emitting diodes), widely used in homes.

In terms of energy efficiency, India is also close to meeting its goal of replacing all its lighting with LED technology, saving tens of millions of dollars on energy bills and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 million. tons per year.

“We do it even though no one else does. We have a great role in the fight against climate change, ”Goyal observed.

Translated by Verónica Firme

IPS News

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