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New global energy goal is key to sustainable development across the board

World leaders’ adoption of an internationally accepted goal on sustainable energy for all is a key that unlocks progress across a stream of other priorities, from ending poverty and hunger, through clean water, health and education, to gender equality, job creation, economic growth and climate action.


SDG 7’s targets on energy access, renewable energy and energy efficiency are enshrined in the objectives of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), which stands ready and able to play a core role in implementing, tracking and reporting on the goal.

Some 1.1 billion people worldwide live without electricity, and 2.9 billion people depend on smoky, dangerous traditional fuels for cooking and heating. Around 4.3 million — mainly women and children — die prematurely every year due to household air pollution caused by these fuels.

Without affordable and reliable energy services, women spend hours every day collecting firewood; children strain their eyes studying by candlelight; vaccines cannot be kept cool; agricultural productivity remains low;, businesses cannot grow. At the same time, wasteful energy use, especially in high-income countries, fuels potentially devastating climate change.

“For the first time, SDG 7 provides an internationally accepted roadmap to sustainable energy for everybody, in the developed and developing world alike. But it goes further than that,” said Rachel Kyte, who will take over next January as Chief Executive Officer of SE4All and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General.

“Without sustainable energy we cannot realise the full ambition of many other goals. This is about a woman being able to give birth safely, knowing that the lights won’t go out. It’s about a small farmer being able to use an irrigation pump. It’s about children being able to do their homework, graduate and contribute more to their communities. And it’s about fighting climate change that threatens to wipe out these gains,” added Ms Kyte, who is currently the World Bank Group’s Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change.

As a unique partnership bringing together governments, business and finance, international organizations and civil society, backed by the convening power of the United Nations and the World Bank, SE4All acts as a catalyst for action and investment to change the global energy model.

“The time has come for a deep transformation of the world’s energy systems, for the sake of people and planet,” said Kandeh Yumkella, the former Special Representative and CEO of the initiative, who stepped down at the end of July to return to his home country of Sierra Leone.

“SE4All and its thousands of partners around the world, across the public sector, private sector and civil society, are united in our commitment to making SDG 7 a reality. It’s a hugely ambitious goal, but we have the tools to do the job and the momentum of a growing movement.”

More than 90 million people have already gained access to sustainable energy under pledges made for the SE4All initiative, and commitments to date can provide energy access for around a billion people by 2030, cutting energy poverty in half despite population growth.

With targeted energy efficiency measures capable of saving many gigatons of carbon emissions and hundreds of billions of dollars, SE4All has launched the unique, public-private Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform (http://www.se4all.org/energyefficiencyplatform) to promote action on energy efficiency in a range of areas from household appliances and buildings to district energy systems and transportation.

SE4All’s Global Tracking Framework (GTF) (http://trackingenergy4all.worldbank.org), coordinated by the World Bank and the International Energy Agency and supported by more than 20 other partner agencies, is ready to act as a rigorous tool for tracking and reporting progress against the targets of SDG 7.

SE4All is also helping to forge new financing models, from public-private partnerships to innovative market tools. The GTF estimates that investment from both the public and private sectors will need to triple from current levels to more than $1 trillion per year to meet SE4All’s goal of sustainable energy for all by 2030.

An expert report by the Finance Committee of SE4All’s high-level Advisory Board, ‘Scaling Up Finance for Sustainable Energy Investments’ (http://www.apo.af/AWfBHF), has identified financial mechanisms that have the potential to boost sustainable energy investments by some $120 billion a year in the near term, through a unique partnership between private banks, multilateral and national development banks and institutional investors.

“To achieve SDG 7 and its targets, philanthropy and aid alone are not enough. We need massive investments and deployment of technology,” Mr Yumkella said.

Underlining its commitment to action towards SDG 7, SE4All will be holding two high-level events on the sidelines of the Sustainable Development Summit, which runs from 25-27 September at UN headquarters in New York.

On 25 September it will hold a panel discussion on “Implementing Sustainable Development Goal 7: Financing Sustainable Energy for All”, moderated by Royal Dutch Shell Chairman Chad Holliday with opening remarks from Ms Kyte and Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation.

Two days later, with co-host Denmark, it will hold an official high-level side event on “Implementing SDG 7: The role of partnerships in ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all”. Speakers will include Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.


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