Summary report, 19 April 2024

Global Stocktaking on Sustainable Energy (SDG7)

Achieving access to affordable and clean energy for all (SDG7) is considered indispensable to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and is, therefore, understandably high on the agenda of political discussions.

A global stocktaking was mandated by the UN General Assembly to review the progress achieved at the conclusion of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024) and to raise ambition, accelerate action, and scale up partnerships and financing, following on from the High-level Dialogue on Energy in September 2021. Participants lauded the progress that has been made in improving energy access and boosting renewables, but emphasized that the world is still not on track to achieve SDG7.

Thus, the Global Stocktaking on Sustainable Energy focused on concrete ways to achieve an acceleration in action, with many participants identifying lack of finance as a key barrier to the clean energy transition. They called for increased investments, especially in developing countries, and for means to overcome barriers to accessing energy finance, such as through an overhaul of lending requirements. Participants also identified capacity support for developing attractive investment environments through appropriate regulatory frameworks as an enabling factor for achieving SDG7. The need for clean cooking solutions was another frequently echoed priority, with many participants noting its importance for the health and wellbeing of populations.

The Global Stocktaking on Sustainable Energy took place on 19 April 2024 at UN Headquarters in New York, US. It was organized as part of the Sustainability Week organized by the President of the General Assembly from 15-19 April and was convened with support from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and in collaboration with UN-Energy.

Summary of the Global Stocktaking on Sustainable Energy

Opening Segment

Dennis Francis, President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, opened the event on Friday morning, 19 April. He noted the conclusion of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024, stressing the ongoing aim of ensuring sustainable energy for all as a precursor to achieving most of the SDGs. He said the world has embraced this principle and the necessity for and potential of sustainable energy. Acknowledging mixed outcomes in the implementation of SDG7, he highlighted positive trends, such as the rise in renewables-based energy capacity in developing countries, which reached 38% in 2021. Additionally, he noted an increase in global electricity access from 87% to 91% and in access to clean cooking fuels from 64% to 71%.

Francis, however, underlined that the pace of energy transformations is still much too slow and benefits are not shared equitably, with 473 million people in the least developed countries (LDCs) still lacking electricity access, and over two billion people continuing to rely on harmful fuels for their cooking needs.

He called for urgent action to sustain the momentum achieved by the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), by tripling the share of renewable energy capacity, doubling energy efficiency, and providing universal access to affordable sustainable energy.

Damilola Ogunbiyi, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, stated that 685 million people lack access to electricity and 2.1 billion lack access to clean cooking solutions. She noted the USD 1.3 trillion in investment and finance already committed to achieving SDG7 through Energy Compacts by a range of stakeholders. She called for aligning UN mechanisms and processes, developing appropriate UN institutional arrangements, and scaling up stakeholder partnerships and collaboration.

Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, reported on recent thematic and regional consultations. He said that although 685 million people will still lack access to electricity in 2030 according to current trends and that the clean energy transition in transport and heating is lagging, SDG7 is still “within range” given technical innovation, investments, and the political resolve that has produced commitments of over USD 1 trillion for action through Energy Compacts. He said UN-Energy’s consultations received diverse suggestions and perspectives from Member States, civil society, and expert stakeholders. He urged accelerating efforts toward universal access to clean energy, gender equality, environmental protection, and climate change mitigation, highlighting the UN’s role as global convenor.

Thematic Debate 1: Closing the Energy Access Gap and Transitioning to Decarbonized Energy Systems

Ligia Noronha, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) New York Office, highlighted the global challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously addressing energy poverty. However, she emphasized that this challenge is not insurmountable, stressing that clean, efficient, and affordable energy is the solution to the challenge. Noronha outlined action areas to achieve this, including: tripling renewable energy; increasing sustainable cooling; and addressing short-lived climate pollutants.

Mary Warlick, Deputy Executive Director, International Energy Agency, acknowledged that although the world is not on track to meet 2030 targets, there are promising signs that progress is accelerating. She said that, for instance, global annual renewable capacity increased by almost 50% last year and the world is on track to install 80% of the renewable capacity needed. However, she lamented that the rate of energy efficiency improvements is increasing more slowly.

Zagy Yakana Berian, Founder, Society of Renewable Energy, SDG7 Youth Constituency – East and Southeast Asia Regional Focal Point, underlined the influence of youth-led efforts in driving essential energy transitions. He emphasized that youth should play active roles in the energy sector, rather than simply observing, due to their unique ability to think “differently, concretely, and truthfully.” He therefore called for youth to have a seat at the table as equal partners and suggested creating a green talent pool to support workers and prepare youth for the future.

Parviz Shakhbazov, Minister of Energy, Azerbaijan, stressed that the UN Climate Change Conference in Baku (COP 29), taking place in November, presents a critical opportunity to ramp up international cooperation on a just, orderly, and equitable energy transition. He urged focusing on the universally-accepted solutions and ingredients for advancing climate action and energy transition. Shakhbazov stressed that renewable energy is key to his country’s national strategy for achieving a clean environment and green growth.

In the subsequent discussion, participants called for accelerating action to achieve SDG7, with many describing national efforts in this regard. Many identified lack of access to finance and investment as a major barrier. Many participants also recalled the UAE Consensus adopted during the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, and its call for, inter alia, tripling renewable energy, doubling energy efficiency, and transitioning away from fossil fuels. They called for redirecting fossil fuel subsidies towards the clean energy transition as a way to close the energy financing gap.

ALGERIA cited progress, including access to electricity for 99% of the population, distribution of natural gas to over 70% of the population, and a diversified energy mix. He supported international cooperation for energy security, including gas pipeline completion, regional electricity grids, and various European projects, and called for an equitable energy transition including natural gas development.

Angola, for the AFRICAN GROUP, said the Group’s priorities include enhancing energy infrastructure for global resilience, enabling environmental sustainability, and achieving broader development. Noting Africa possesses 60% of global solar resources but only 1% of solar generation capacity, he called for doubling annual investment, including for increasing energy efficiency, promoting gender equality, reducing household pollution, and improving health.

ANGOLA noted its Energy Plan 2022-2035 and its goal to become an African leader in sustainable energy, including hydroelectric and photovoltaic energy, and to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

SLOVENIA called for transitioning away from fossil fuels including eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. He emphasized renewable and low-carbon technologies, education and training, strong rules-based multilateralism, and simultaneous action on water and energy given fragile water security.

The EU noted that, since 2012, the population without electricity has been cut in half globally, the number relying on biomass for cooking has decreased from 2.6 to 2.1 billion, and share of renewables in global energy production has increased significantly. However, he lamented insufficient and uneven support to developing countries. He said the EU will, among other things: engage on fully decarbonizing its power system in the 2030s, including phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; work to ensure affordable sustainable energy through gender-responsive finance models; and pursue negotiations for stronger UN institutional arrangements on energy, including a strong monitoring framework on the 2030 goals for energy.

Haiti, for the CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY, said the region’s challenges include heavy reliance on imported oil, rising costs, fragile electricity grids, and climate change impacts. He cited goals to increase electrification to 51% by 2050, and ensure 47% of its generation comes from renewable energy by 2027. He called for scaling up investments for endogenous renewable energy projects, and lamented that the region’s share of global investment in renewables is under 5%.

BRAZIL noted substantial financing shortfalls for the energy transition and called for mobilizing financial resources and increasing international cooperation, stressing these are crucial for emerging markets and developing countries. He urged the world to join forces to make the energy transitions a global reality.

COLOMBIA stressed that although investments in clean energy are increasing, reports demonstrate that these investments mainly flow to developed countries and China. She underlined that to make progress on SDG7, fight climate change, eradicate poverty, and conserve nature, the world needs to gradually phase out fossil fuels in this decade and increase renewable energy penetration.

QATAR stressed that access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy is indispensable to achieving all the SDGs by 2030.

SYRIA lamented damage to the country’s energy infrastructure by armed terrorist groups and American forces as their militia partners. He explained that unilateral coercive measures by the US and EU present barriers for his country to access the needed financing from foreign donors and international funds and called for their immediate unconditional lifting.

The RUSSIAN FEDERATION underscored each country’s right to choose their own path towards ensuring access to sustainable energy for all. Stressing natural gas has a key role in the energy transition and climate agenda, as the cleanest and most affordable of the traditional fuels, he said it is “irrational to put all eggs into the renewable energy basket.”

TÜRKIYE underlined the importance of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in achieving SDG7 and called for support to developing countries in developing the energy-related elements of their next NDCs.

SAUDI ARABIA stressed the need for tailored approaches, noting that one size does not fit all. She also called for focusing on greenhouse gas emissions in general rather than on specific sources, underlined the importance of carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, and urged not losing sight of the main goal of ensuring sustainable energy access for all.

INDIA noted progress despite years of geopolitical conflict and financial shocks, and the recent pandemic, all hitting the global South hardest. He cited India’s: citizen-centric approach to decarbonization, including empowerment in and ownership of the energy transition; high global rank in harnessing wind and solar; and goal to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030 and net zero by 2070.

SINGAPORE discussed: the promotion of renewable energy through pricing and appropriate regulations; smarter household energy use, through smart appliances and a whole-of-society approach to reducing energy use across the board; and international cooperation for addressing energy holistically, including a regional partnership to develop an Association of Southeast Asian Nations power grid.

CHINA said his country has provided access to electricity for every village and household since 2015 and developed cooperation to assist other countries. He called for: true multilateralism to make the energy transition more fair, equitable, balanced, and inclusive; prioritizing energy security through a just energy transition based on accessibility, common but differentiated responsibilities, and all countries’ right to choose their own energy and development model; pursuing green and low-carbon development and production; and an industrial and technological revolution in the energy sector to improve energy efficiency through new innovation, technology, and industrial models.

The REPUBLIC OF KOREA called for initiatives to take advantage of all forms of carbon-free energy, including acceleration of nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen. He requested more resources to ensure access for the global South, citing his country’s contributions to the global financial architecture and commitment to enhancing partnerships.

The UK called for: reforming the multilateral development banks to expand access to clean energy for the poorest countries; de-risking clean energy investments in the poorest countries by supporting and implementing policies and regulations to increase investment where infrastructure is expensive; and collecting data to track progress on SDG7.

KENYA highlighted his country’s clean energy efforts, such as its Green Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap, to increase energy efficiency and access through increasing electrification to 73% of households in 2023 and to achieve net zero by 2050. He said high infrastructure costs and energy losses, inadequate financial resources, and international supply chain disruptions must be addressed to achieve SDG7. He proposed targeted and innovative strategies, a sustainable energy agenda, social and environmentally sustainable development, and increased bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

IRAQ called for technology transfer techniques, tools, and information exchange, saying a just transition requires consideration of interlinkages between access to sustainable energy and the needs of communities that rely on energy. He added that implementation of SDG7 requires a comprehensive approach that improves energy sources through technology transfer and investments in energy infrastructure, including power grids and pipelines, and pursues regional cooperation and multilateral action.

AUSTRALIA welcomed commitments to ensure a just and equitable clean energy transition, noting this requires increased financial flows. She cited Australia’s USD 1.3 billion commitment to the South Pacific region and other contributions through private and philanthropic entities. She called for employing a “gender lens” for addressing energy poverty and high-impact projects for accelerating implementation.

PORTUGAL said transitioning to more inclusive societies and economies requires access to renewable and sustainable energy sources, calling for continued partnerships toward the clean energy transition and more rapid achievement of climate neutrality. He noted that Portugal closed its last two coal power plants in 2021 and will expand its renewable energy capacity twofold by 2030, reaching 85% renewable energy production by 2026.

The NETHERLANDS said next steps should include establishment of a platform for engaging in a meaningful way to identify possibilities for enhanced cooperation, stimulating peer-learning, and sharing lessons learned. He said the platform should support an intergovernmental dialogue on energy, and provide technical support as needed. He further called for a focus on access to renewable energy and clean cooking solutions.

ICELAND underlined that sustainable energy development cannot be achieved without gender equality, stressing that women drive sustainable energy and therefore should have a bigger role in the energy transition.

The UAE emphasized that decarbonizing energy systems is an enormous undertaking and everyone has a role to play. She called for the finance sector to step up with innovative financing, for governments to enhance their NDCs and policy frameworks to create enabling conditions, and for the development of energy transition technologies.

ARGENTINA said his country has renewable resources in vast quantities, as well as natural gas that can support the transition to a lower carbon economy. He underlined the importance of climate finance.

NORWAY underscored that achieving SDG7 requires a “massive course correction” that includes the submission of NDCs aligned with ambitions, the adoption of an integrated approach that boosts all sources of finance, domestic resource mobilization, and policy certainty and stability.

PAKISTAN identified two essential requirements for the energy transition: finance, such as by scaling up concessional public finance that can be used to incentivize private investment in developing countries; and a pipeline of viable and bankable projects to help translate finance into actionable development. She advocated for the establishment of a public-private entity under the auspices of the UN to help with creating this pipeline.

Thematic Debate 2: Addressing Energy’s Interlinkages and Strengthening Means of Implementation and Partnerships

In scene-setting remarks, Ciyong Zou, Deputy to the Director General and Managing Director, Directorate of Technical Cooperation and Sustainable Industrial Development, UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), called for increasing ambition, accelerating deployment of clean energy technologies, guaranteeing equitable access, and decarbonization. He said the transition to renewables increases reliance on minerals, such as for battery production, calling industry vital for solutions. He noted UNIDO’s support for industry in its work on policy coherence in innovation, infrastructure, and emerging technologies.

Alain Wilfried Biya, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), stressed that without means of implementation, energy transitions will remain wishful thinking. He underscored that public finance remains essential to bridge the gap for areas the market would ordinarily not invest in, such as planning and building the energy infrastructure, education and skills training, and catalyzing financial investment in underserved communities. He urged governments to mobilize private capacity by offering de-risking initiatives in order to guarantee private sector returns and profits. He noted IRENA supports access to de-risking initiatives and capacity building to produce a workforce skilled in energy transition. He also cited IRENA’s activities supporting trade in green hydrogen for renewables-rich developing countries,

Sheila Oparaocha, Executive Director, ENERGIA, and Co-Chair, SDG7 Technical Advisory Group, noted that promoting clean cooking solutions is essential for achieving the co-benefits of universal access to clean energy, such as education. Stressing the need for in-depth understanding of the opportunities, challenges, and interlinkages between energy and gender and the participation of women in the design, production, and distribution of energy services, she urged mainstreaming gender issues and tracking gender empowerment globally.

Sumant Sinha, Chief Executive Officer, ReNew Energy Global, India, cited global success in increasing renewable energy as well as total energy consumption. He highlighted lessons from India’s experience, including: regarding the energy transition as an economic opportunity rather than burden; good domestic policy can mitigate the need for public financial support such as subsidies; and the usefulness of robust debt funding reservoirs. He noted a shift toward local supply chains due to disruptions from wars and the pandemic, with pros including supply chain diversification that has triggered action in developing countries, and cons including blockages of exports of critical resources, dumping of goods in the international markets, and on-shoring policies by major industrialized countries.

A ministerial response was provided by Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy, Denmark. Noting progress while acknowledging more effort was needed, he called for partnerships, finance, and synergies to achieve SDG7 and highlighted examples of Denmark’s work in these areas. Stressing that access to energy is no longer a luxury for the few, he said sustainable energy must leave no one behind, and that international cooperation is required for meeting SDG7’s targets in six years.

In the subsequent debate, Samoa, for the ALLIANCE OF SMALL ISLAND STATES (AOSIS), lamented the reliance on energy imports for electricity generation and transportation in many small island developing states (SIDS). She noted that although most SIDS have the potential to scale up renewable energy, barriers include high upfront installation costs, lack of infrastructure, limited capacity, and a restrictive environment that limits access to concessional development finance. AOSIS called for addressing these barriers through, for instance, enhanced policy and de-risking instruments and technology transfer.

ITALY called for a comprehensive and action-oriented roadmap that builds on the achievements of the UN Decade and outlines clear steps to further accelerate progress toward SDG7. She said the roadmap should comprise a holistic approach to advance implementation of all SDGs and include stronger commitment to sources of renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as clean cooking technologies.

INDONESIA stressed that “acceleration” means working beyond commitment and delivering concrete results. He outlined that his country’s approach to the energy transition comprises: building a strong regulatory framework; developing energy infrastructure up to the last mile; and strengthening multistakeholder collaboration.

The UAE urged bolstering coordination between different sectors, such as agriculture and rural development, in order to move toward a greener economy. She underlined the need for partnerships between voluntary organizations, development banks, and other relevant bodies to support achieving SDG7.

PANAMA stressed energy as a driving force for sustainable development and poverty eradication, underlining the need to promote equitable and affordable energy access, especially for rural communities and hard-to-reach areas. She outlined her country’s achievements, including doubling solar capacity and improving wind and hydropower infrastructure.

BOLIVIA urged prioritizing the expansion of energy access particularly for the most marginalized and remote communities, which requires investing in energy infrastructure and innovative technologies, and promoting the adoption of clean and renewable energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Noting his country’s investment in lithium as a fossil fuel alternative, he lamented the difficulty of accessing the needed technology, which is slowing progress.

GERMANY emphasized the need to: expand renewable energy and develop the needed grid infrastructure; improve energy efficiency; promote the transition away from fossil fuels; and accelerate zero and low-emission technologies.

The WORLD BANK noted that the percentage of the population with electricity access has increased over the past eight years from 87% to 91%, but that the number of people living without electricity increased in 2022 for the first time in over a decade. He lamented that the global electricity access gap in 2022 stands at over 600 million people, is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is getting worse. He further identified clean cooking as one of the greatest developmental challenges. He called for new approaches to scale up investment, including new access initiatives focusing on energy needs in Africa.

The INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY underlined recognition that nuclear power, alongside renewable energy and other zero and low-carbon technologies, is needed for the clean energy transition. She highlighted outcomes from the first Nuclear Energy Summit, held in March 2024 in Brussels, Belgium, including the need for increased financing, workforce development, and more proactive support, including providing a level financial playing field for nuclear newcomer countries, as key to the long-term success of nuclear energy.

The UN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC said total installed power generation capacity from renewable energy in the region increased by 250% over the last decade, which comprises 50% of total global renewable energy installation. Noting impediments to reducing energy intensity include rising demand, the cost of financing, and social inequalities, he called for accelerated investment in infrastructure.

UN-WOMEN said universal access to clean energy could help end poverty for 180 million women by 2050 and result in 6.5 million fewer deaths from indoor pollution. She called for: guaranteeing women’s rights; ensuring women’s participation in the designs and outcomes of the just transition; gender-disaggregated indicators for SDG7; and increased financing for gender-responsive transitions.

The UN OFFICE FOR DISASTER RISK REDUCTION urged multilateral development banks to strengthen their support for a just and inclusive energy transition, including through concessional funding and public-private partnerships. She called for: fostering investment in reducing fossil fuel dependence; promoting integration of renewables; enhancing grid and off-grid flexibility and resilience; and prioritizing resilience planning and emergency preparedness for a safe future.

The UN CHILDREN’S FUND (UNICEF) said the UN Decade has benefitted children’s access to education, water, and hygiene. She cited UNICEF’s deployment of sustainable energy solutions in 80 countries and fragile contexts, noting children and youth pay the highest price for lack of progress in achieving SDG7.

The International Youth Organization for Ibero-America said his organization is creating a platform to focus on youth matters and reduce hindrances to youth on issues relating to climate change and sustainability. He said his organization calls for young people to: be environmentally aware and active; integrate climate into their lives; reduce their fossil fuel use; and enhance their use of renewables. He added that scholarships are offered to help further global actions for educating future generations.

UN-HABITAT said African countries are urbanizing by 4.4% annually, with 55% of the global population already living in urban areas. She noted this increases the need for energy and fosters energy wastage. She called providing energy for all a priority, noting that “70% of the buildings that will exist in Africa in 2050 are yet to be built.” She added that inadequate access to energy for poor communities negatively impacts their livelihoods, relegating them to society’s margins.

Power for All said her organization transforms the way energy is used, generated, and paid for through accelerating the adoption of decentralized energy including mini-grids and solar. She bemoaned systemic biases that limit and discourage ambition and scale for these options, such as current “mazes of regulations” instead of subsidies for participating businesses. She urged decision makers and funders to increase assistance to the private sector for achieving universal access, such as through: agricultural transformation plans that include carve-outs for decentralized renewables; means for integrating distributed renewable energy with the grid; and releasing already-pledged funds.

The Partnership on Sustainable Low-Carbon Transport noted transport is the fastest growing energy-consuming sector, relying almost entirely on fossil fuels and producing 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. She posited that transport will double in some areas by 2050, with concomitant increases in air pollution. She called for transformation to catalyze progress in the sector by replacing fossil fuels with renewables and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.

The Right Energy Partnership for Indigenous Peoples presented the outcomes of a recent discussion by 87 Indigenous representatives from 35 countries on the impacts of renewable energy transition on Indigenous Peoples’ territories and rights. He noted key findings focusing on, inter alia: Indigenous rights to their lands and their role as rights holders; ending fossil fuel reliance; alarm over increasing attacks on Indigenous Peoples related to mining and large-scale energy projects; lack of, and need for, implementation of free prior and informed consent; and Indigenous Peoples’ economic empowerment and empowerment in the deployment of renewables.

Loughborough University spoke on its Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme and the role of imaginative cross-sectoral thinking in tackling current poor progress in addressing climate change. He said MECS works to accelerate transitioning from biomass to clean cooking globally, thereby accelerating progress in many other SDGs, such as health, climate change, and gender. He also noted the potential for integration across SDG7’s components themselves, including clean cooking, electrification, energy efficiency, and transition to renewables. He cited the Global Stocktaking on Sustainable Energy (SDG7) as a turning point for access to clean cooking and called on the global community to commit to transformative change to ensure safe, sustainable, and affordable cooking methods.

Closing Segment

Underlining the need for accelerating transitions to clean and sustainable energy systems while paying attention to different national situations, priorities, and approaches, Dennis Francis launched a “Call to Action” to further accelerate implementation of SDG7 towards 2030 and beyond. He called for prioritizing and implementing measures to extend electricity access to the more than 600 million people without access, as well as clean cooking solutions for the over two billion people still relying on harmful fuels. Francis further called for dramatically scaled up finance and investment for developing countries, by tripling global investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2030, especially for LDCs, landlocked developing countries, and SIDS. He urged Member States, civil society, and other stakeholders to support this Call to Action to follow up on the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, as well as to sustain and strengthen international dialogue and cooperation on energy at the UN, including through a potential UN conference on energy. He closed the meeting at 5.09 pm.

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