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Access to clean and efficient energy in developing countries

by Johannes Hügel, Romain Pardo

The need for EU action to implement SDG7

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.

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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.

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 will be 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.

Ahead of 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.

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July 6, 2017
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