Tracking Progress in Sustainable Energy: UN Regional Commissions explore regional achievements, challenges and practices to drive the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development          

[Lightmillennium.Org] Building upon the regional profiles within the 2017 Global Tracking Framework (GTF) for Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) report, the five Regional Commissions have developed Regional Reports to offer a more in depth review and analysis of the issues and challenges faced at regional levels in achieving sustainable energy.
The global GTF report, launched by the World Bank and the International Energy Agency in April, provides country-level data on renewable energy consumption, energy efficiency, and energy access rates to track progress toward achieving the SE4All targets: assuring universal access to electricity and clean cooking fuels and technology; doubling the rate of improving global energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewables within the global energy mix by 2030. Expanding on these three SE4All pillars, the Regional Reports seek to present a broader interpretation of energy for sustainable development, and provide in-depth regional analysis for Africa, the Arab Region, Asia & the Pacific, Europe, North America & Central Asia, and Latin America & the Caribbean.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA) Regional Report provides analysis for the African region (except North Africa), and highlights the need to look at income categories of countries which determine their energy dispositions. While higher income countries are well on track to meet universal access to modern energy, a large number of countries face great challenges in increasing access rates due to weak policies and institutions, inadequate investments in energy infrastructure, and energy deficits especially in heavily populated rural areas, among other factors. With a major policy focus on energy security aiming at an increase of energy supply to address energy demand growth, the Report further observes the low priority that is set on energy efficiency in Africa. As a biomass dominated region, achievement of a high-share of renewable energy is determined by this type of energy which raises the questions of whether biomass in its traditional form is indeed renewable. Until now, there is very little progress in the deployment of modern renewable energy.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Africa (UN ESCWA) Regional Report presents analysis for the North African Arab countries, the Mashreq, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as the Arab Least-Developed Countries (LDCs). The Report stresses on the need to assess further the quality of service beyond quantitative measures of energy access as well as complementary issues such affordability of energy in particular where conflict and political instability are major obstacles to sustainable development. In a region where water is so scarce, and food insecurity is a challenge for rich and poor Arab countries alike, energy emerges as a catalysts to transform this reality. With the lowest share of renewable energy consumption, the Arab region, at the beginning of investing in renewable energy technologies, has great potential for strong growth. Nonetheless, further improvement in policies and new initiatives, such as competitive market, hold considerable prospective. As the second-least energy-intensive region and having one of the world’s lowest domestic energy prices, increasing energy efficiency of national economies, and therefore energy productivity, will achieve economic gain as well as social wellbeing and environmental sustainability. This will depend largely on enhancement of institutional capacity, rationalise its energy subsidies, and incentivise energy conservation and investing in more energy efficient technologies.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) Regional Report complements the GTF data by highlighting good practices, policies and country specific measures. The Asia-Pacific region, with 60% of the world’s population, rapidly developing economies and growing energy demand will largely shape global energy trends. The challenges of achieving the 2030 targets are many and varied due to the diversity of national contexts, but the report highlights how Asia-Pacific countries are demonstrating leadership in developing new models for off-grid access to electricity, industrial energy efficiency, and renewable energy in particular. It also points to major points of needed focus, especially in increasing access to clean cooking fuels and technology, as approximately half the population continues to rely on traditional forms of biomass, resulting in negative health impacts, particularly for women. The report also highlights that, across all three pillars, insufficient investment, flexible finance, technology availability, and affordability remain hurdles to be addressed with the help of improved policy frameworks and new partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Regional Report provides analysis for different sub-regions including North America; Western and Central Europe; Southeast Europe; as well as Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. The Report highlights the need to look beyond the reported universal physical access to electricity networks to analyse trends in energy affordability and quality of service across the region. Although the UNECE region is the only region that has a positive trend in the share of renewable energy in total energy consumption, other sources such as the previously launched UNECE Renewable Energy Status Report 2017 suggest that investments in renewable energy are a critical concern in the Eastern reaches of the region. Overall, the UNECE Regional Report argues to expand the current scope of the GTF SE4All indicators to address a broader spectrum of aspects relevant to “energy for sustainable development”. Selected case studies and analysis on how countries deal with broader sustainable energy challenges including fossil fuels and climate related areas are provided.

All five GTF Regional Reports share the common conclusion that that with the current rate of progress, universal achievement of the energy-related SDG targets by 2030 is not possible. There is agreement among the Regional Commissions that stronger efforts and closer cooperation between all stakeholders is required to accelerate the transformation of the energy sector. The quality and reliability of data on all three pillars is an area that needs to be addressed in future tracking initiatives in order to increase accuracy of the Reports. Moving ahead from the current GTF experienced, there is further the need to look beyond the current set of indicators and work with countries in interpreting data with the aim to tell the right stories on sustainable energy progress. This is not only crucial to achieve the SE4All initiative, but also to achieve the broader energy targets underlying the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The preliminary Regional Report findings were presented at the Eighth Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development in Astana on 12 June during a panel discussion with speakers from the United Nations Regional Commissions and the World Bank. All five Reports will be published in the course of this year and made available on the Regional Commission’s websites. The global GTF report with regional and country data and analysis is accessible online at    

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