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Sustainable energy: the energy of the future!

Feb 24,2018 - Last updated at Feb 24,2018

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to live without electricity? In a world where we cannot fathom even a day without our mobiles, connected to the World Wide Web, there are still people in many parts of the world who must forsake even more basic needs.

In 2017, 1.06 billion people, mostly living in rural communities, were still functioning without electricity, half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 3 billion people, most of them in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. This month, Gaza’s sole electricity plant stopped working because of a lack of fuel, worsening humanitarian conditions for the 2 million Palestinians who, only receive around four hours of electricity a day.

The need for energy permeates every aspect of life of a human being. It plays a crucial role in people’s health, education, water supply and industrialisation, hence in fighting poverty and fostering development. “Energy is vital to our lives,” says United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “Access to energy helps children to study at night, farmers to grow more crops and hospitals to provide better care,” said Guterres in his message to EXPO 2017 World Fair last June in Astana, Kazakhstan.

But energy, in its traditional resources, remains the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, Guterres’ call for urgent action “to ensure that everyone has access to clean, affordable and efficient energy so that they can rise to their full potential”. The secretary general was, in fact, referring to a very important goal of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the member states of the United Nations in September 2015. The Goals (SDGs), are part of a huge world effort to combat poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change and foster peace and global partnerships by 2030.

Goal 7 of the SDGs calls for the ambitious objective of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. This entails substantially increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, improving energy efficiency, enhancing international cooperation in the field of energy research and technology, and promoting investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology, particularly in developing countries.

In 2017, the UN Conference on Trade and Development published a report on the world’s 47 Least Developed Countries, focused on Transformational Energy Access. While acknowledging the daunting mission they have ahead, the report noted that “renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, could have a revolutionary effect in rural areas, home to 82 per cent of those without power in the least developed countries, and help to overcome the historical obstacles to rural electrification… [which] in itself has valuable welfare implications”.

Luckily, clean energy cost, such as for solar panels, has gone down dramatically. According to The Solar Foundation, there are now more jobs in solar energy than in coal mining. Furthermore, while fossil-fueled power plants increase carbon emissions causing health problems, such as asthma and heart attacks, wind and solar energy resources produce no carbon emissions. 

The United Nations stresses that real progress towards achieving Goal 7 needs higher levels of commitment by policy makers, more funding and investment in new technologies. Renewable energy is not a luxury anymore. Implementing more reliable and more efficient options is essential to safeguarding our quality of life on this planet and the survival of future generations.

 

The writer is the national information officer at the UN Information Centre in Beirut. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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