Agneta Persson explores the fundamental role energy efficiency plays in achieving the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.
More efficient energy use is fundamental to future sustainable energy systems. It is also a defining factor for many of the global challenges we face, like poverty, food security, equal access to water, healthcare and education, climate change and equitable economic growth. An analysis shows that more efficient energy use increases our possibility to, achieve all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030.
When Agenda 2030 was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, the countries of the world vowed to, over the next 15 years, eradicate extreme poverty, combat inequality and disparity, and take urgent action on climate change through the delivery of the 17 SDGs. The goals are integrated and indivisible and importantly balance the three dimensions of sustainable development— economic, social and environmental. The Agenda strives to adopt a holistic approach, implementing change at the system level together with local initiatives and improvements within each specific area.
Energy Efficiency Is Linked To All 17 Goals
Efficient energy use is a good example of the interdependent nature of the goals. Sustainable energy is addressed specifically in Goal 7, which is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. More efficient energy use is also directly or indirectly linked to the other 16 Sustainable Development Goals.
Access to, and use of, energy is unevenly distributed across the world and within different socio-economic groups. One of the greatest challenges is ensuring that everyone, in all parts of the world, has access to secure, safe, sustainable and efficient energy. There are many ways of lowering energy use, along with technology that makes it possible to derive the same benefits using less energy, while simultaneously increasing geopolitical security.
From a Swedish perspective, the Swedish Energy Agency has provided several examples of how Goal 7 is linked to the other SDGs.1 They assert that “energy is directly or indirectly linked to all of the 17 SDGs” and that it “should be regarded as a necessary resource for achieving the other SDGs”. However, attention is also given to the fact that there could be adverse dependencies between energy supply and other SDGs, for example, between energy production and the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity. Energy issues are closely related to climate issues since a large portion of global energy production is based on fossil fuels and the energy sector is responsible for the largest portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Swedish Energy Agency highlights that necessary action is required in Sweden in order to achieve a reduction. Such action includes the development of renewable energy and climate adaptation of cities.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency are also fundamental to achieving Goal 12, “ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns”. In order to support this goal, Sweden must lower its consumption-based carbon footprint requiring a reduction in the energy intensity of economic growth. For Sweden, and for many other countries, this means that basic industry must convert to 100 per cent renewable energy.
A System Requirement For Nearly Half Of The Targets
A qualitative analysis shows how more efficient energy use affects our ability to reach the SDGs at a global level. The conclusion is that all of the 17 SDGs can be more easily achieved if energy use becomes more efficient. Energy use is explicitly mentioned in at least 26 of the targets and it is deemed as having an indirect link to at least 47 more of the targets The analysis indicates that more efficient use of energy is a system requirement for achieving at least 65 of the 169 targets.2.
Energy efficiency and lower energy use is a prerequisite for building sustainable cities and societies, combating climate change, achieving long-term sustainable economic growth and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. There are many linkages and dependencies between the various targets, including:
- Access to energy, as a fundamental social service or infrastructure in support of eradicating poverty in all its forms (Target 1.4 and target 11.1)-Encourage the sustainable use of natural resources, including sustainable use of energy resources to ensure sustainable consumption and production, improve resource efficiency and decouple economic growth from environmental degradation (Target 12.2, Target 15.5, Target 16.1 and Target 10.7 )
- More efficient use of energy and thereby access to light, fuel for cooking, transport etc. is a prerequisite for greater prosperity and a more inclusive society (Target 3.1, Target 4.3 and Target 11.2) In the context of equality, there are strong links between access to energy efficiency and social structures, where women in many parts of the world spend much of their available time trying to obtain energy resources (Target 4.5. Target 6.2 and Target 11.7)
All targets can be found and accessed on the UN website.
Accordingly, energy efficiency is not only fundamental to future sustainable energy systems but also to achieving more sustainable development in all aspects of sustainability. The analysis shows that energy efficiency impacts our ability to achieve all 17 of the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.