SEATTLE — In many countries, billions of families do not have access to electricity. Nearly 2.8 billion people cook their meals and heat their home using wood, dung and other waste. Energy reduces poverty, and yet around 1.2 billion people still live in the dark. Without precious energy resources, hopes of economic progress for the masses will be cut short.
Riding on the trajectory of the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations has set seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to reach by 2030. The seventh of these ambitious endeavors includes ensuring global access to clean and reliable energy sources.
With electricity in their homes, billions of people will be given the chance to advance economically. In India, the recent reduction of extreme poverty rates from 21 to just 12.4 percent can be attributed to the expansion of infrastructure, including increased energy sources to rural villages.
Energy drives major lifestyle changes, as exemplified by the increasing access to electricity in rural India. These changes have affected consumption choices, increased the labor supply from both men and women and promoted girls’ education according to The World Bank.
A lack of cleaner energy sources harms the health of the poor. A report by National Geographic states that by 2030, nearly 1.5 million people are projected to die each year from inhaling the smoke of indoor cooking fires. This would be even more than the projected deaths per year occurring from HIV/AIDS. Replacing wood and biomass fires with cleaner energy sources would literally save millions of lives per year.
The U.N.’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative would also contribute to a cleaner future. Whereas burning biomass fuels contributes significantly to carbon emission, global developmental goals are focused on providing cleaner, renewable sources of energy.
This goal will require $41 billion per year for the next five years. To meet all their goals, the U.N. has required that each country contribute 70 cents per $100 of their GDP. So far, only five European countries have met this goal, and the United States is far behind.
However, notable progress has given a good reason for hope. Even before the U.N.’s concentrated effort to provide universal energy access, 1.7 billion more people were provided with electricity from 1990 to 2010. Energy reduces poverty, and with a collective force of the world’s most powerful countries pushing for the needs of the energy deficient, the U.N. has high hopes for meeting their goals by 2030.
– Emiliano Perez