Why the global energy transition must be just and equitable

  • Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) held its 5th annual energy forum in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • The theme of the event focused on driving forward bold action for a people-centered energy transition.
  • Developing countries need the support of developed ones to ensure the energy transition is just and equitable.

Sustainable Development Goal Seven (SDG 7) aims to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” by the year 2030. Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) led by Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary -General (SRSG) for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, held its 5th annual forum in Kigali, Rwanda – the first in Africa. The event brought global leaders, industry experts, bureaucrats, and the energy community together to map out ways of achieving the event’s theme “Driving Bold Action for a People-Centred Energy Transition.”

Energy, materials and infrastructure are the global foundations of strong economic growth. With increasing environmental, societal and financial pressures on these sectors, how do we help them deliver a fair, net-zero future?

The World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Energy, Materials and Infrastructure works with five industries: electricity, oil and gas, mining and metals, engineering and construction, and chemicals and advanced materials. The platform enables business, government and society to grow sustainable economies, help stop climate change and foster equality worldwide.


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Climate, energy, and development are interconnected

Climate, energy, and development are interconnected, and countries must ensure that one must not stimy the others. In 2021, industrial and building use of energy accounted for 41.7% of global greenhouse emissions. There must be global cooperation to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels. We need responsible development, which includes the transition away from fossil fuels.

Prioritize clean cooking options and productive use of energy

With over 2.5 billion people without access to clean cooking, relying on traditional fuels like fuelwood and kerosene, we need to adopt cleaner alternatives, including biogas, liquefied petroleum gas, electricity, and natural gas. These reduce air pollution.

With over 4 million people dying annually from the use of inefficient cooking methods, clean cooking is an economic, health, and environmental necessity. Energy access must go beyond basic lighting and appliances to include productive use of electricity (PUE). PUE can spur productivity and socioeconomic development for households, SMEs and MSMEs. Governments and energy providers, especially in developing economies, must ensure useful access to energy for income generation and welfare development.

Share of population with access to clean cooking

Share of population with access to clean cooking

Image: IEA

Energy transition must consider the peculiarities of developing regions

Africa is responsible for less than 5% of global emissions but is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. According to SEforALL, at least 592 million people in Africa don’t have access to electricity. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda highlighted this point at the Forum: “Africa cannot carry the burden alone, especially given that its emissions did not create the climate emergency. However, Africa will be part of the solution,” he said. The African Ministerial Roundtable presented seven transformative actions for SDG7 in Africa:

1) Make modern sustainable energy available to the entire continent.

2) Support Africa in the deployment of gas as a transition fuel and the long-term displacement of gas by renewable energy and green hydrogen for industrial development.

3) Pursue 1,000 kWh per capita energy consumption across Africa (middle-income economies consume 2,500 kWh per capita and high-income economies 6,000 kWh per capita).

4) Scale-up private and public sector investment to $2 trillion in new generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. Invest in new energy technologies and delivery systems.

5) Create millions of local jobs in the new sustainable energy sector to benefit local economies, including through the creation of local supply chains and climate-aligned national energy transition plans.

6) Lift development finance restrictions that currently limit projects in Africa to meet local development needs and ramp up domestic resource mobilization.

7) Catalyze a step-change in technology transfer mechanisms to ensure that the entire continent has access to the latest energy innovations on fair terms.

Only through such steps can Africa achieve universal energy access and realize its transition goals. It is laudable to see nations like South Africa phasing out coal and Nigeria incorporating renewables into national development.

financing

Various commitments were announced during the Forum. Bloomberg Philanthropies committed $242 million to accelerate the clean energy transition in 10 developing countries in Africa and Asia. The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) also committed $50 million to SEforALL’s Universal Energy Facility (UEF).

There is a need for more investments in renewables and increased financing to developing countries to support climate adaptation. Innovative financing, through end-user grants, can also cater to the bottom of the pyramid demographic that needs access to affordable and modern energy. Industrialized nations must halt investments in new fossil fuel projects and prioritize supporting developing economies in their energy transition.

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