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IEA: COVID-19 slows progress toward universal energy access

PARIS, France, 2 June 2022: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a key factor in slowing progress towards universal energy access, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said through a Press release. Globally, 733 million people still have no access to electricity, and 2.4 billion people still cook using fuels detrimental to their health and the environment, the Agency said. At the current rate of progress, 670 million people will remain without electricity by 2030 – 10 million more than projected last year, it added.

The 2022 edition of Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report shows that the impacts of the pandemic, including lockdowns, disruptions to global supply chains, and diversion of fiscal resources to keep food and fuel prices affordable, have affected the pace of progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7) of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030, IEA pointed out. Advances have been impeded particularly in the most vulnerable countries and those already lagging in energy access, it said. Nearly 90 million people in Asia and Africa, who had previously gained access to electricity, can no longer afford to pay for their basic energy needs, it added.

The impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on energy have been compounded in the last few months by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has led to uncertainty in global oil and gas markets and has sent energy prices soaring, IEA said.

According to IEA, Africa remains the least electrified region in the world with 568 million people without electricity access. Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the global population without electricity jumped to 77% in 2020 from 71% in 2018, whereas most other regions saw declines in their share of the access deficits. While 70 million people globally gained access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, this progress was not enough to keep pace with population growth, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, IEA said.

The report finds that despite continued disruptions in economic activity and supply chains, renewable energy was the only energy source to grow through the pandemic, IEA said. However, these positive global and regional trends in renewable energy have left behind many countries most in need of electricity, it said. This was aggravated by a decrease in international financial flows for the second year in a row, falling to USD 10.9 billion in 2019, it added.

SDG 7 targets also cover energy efficiency. According to IEQ, from 2010 to 2019, global annual improvements in energy intensity averaged around 1.9%. This is well below the levels needed to meet SDG 7’s targets, and to make up for lost ground, the average rate of improvement would have to jump to 3.2%, it said.

In September 2021, the United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Energy brought together governments and stakeholders to accelerate action to achieve a sustainable energy future that leaves no one behind. In this context, the SDG 7 custodian agencies, the IEA, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), as they launch this report, are urging the international community and policymakers to safeguard gains towards SDG 7; to remain committed to continued action towards affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all; and to maintain a strategic focus on countries needing the most support.

According to IEA, key highlights on SDG 7 targets are…

Access to electricity.  The share of the world’s population with access to electricity rose from 83% in 2010 to 91% in 2020, increasing the number of people with access by 1.3 billion, globally. The number without access declined from 1.2 billion people in 2010 to 733 million in 2020. However, the pace of progress in electrification has slowed in recent years, which may be explained by the increasing complexity of reaching more remote and poorer unserved populations and the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meeting the 2030 target requires increasing the number of new connections to 100 million a year. At current rates of progress, the world will reach only 92% electrification by 2030.

Between 2010 and 2020, every region of the world showed consistent progress in electrification, but with wide disparities. Electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa rose from 46% in 2018 to 48% in 2020, but the region’s share of the global access deficit rose from 71% in 2018 to 77% in 2020, whereas most other regions, including Central and Southern Asia, saw declines in their share of the access deficits. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for more than three quarters of the people (568 million people) who remained without access in 2020.

Renewables. Ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy implies accelerated deployment of renewable energy sources for electricity, heat and transport. Although there is no quantitative target for SDG 7.2, custodian agencies agree that the share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption (TFEC) needs to rise significantly, even though renewable energy consumption did continue to grow through the pandemic, overcoming disruptions to economic activity and supply chains. While the share of renewable capacity expansion rose by a record amount in 2021, the positive global and regional trajectories mask the fact that countries where new capacity additions lagged were those most in need of increased access. Moreover, rising commodity, energy and shipping prices as well as restrictive trade measures have increased the cost of producing and transporting solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, wind turbines, and biofuels, adding uncertainty for future renewable energy projects.

Renewable shares need to reach well over 30% of TFEC by 2030, up from 18% in 2019, to be on track for reaching net-zero-energy emissions by 2050. Achieving this objective would require strengthening policy support in all sectors and implementing effective tools to further mobilise private capital, especially in least-developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing countries.

Energy efficiency. SDG 7.3 aims to double the global rate of annual improvement in primary energy intensity – the amount of energy used per unit of wealth created – to 2.6% in 2010-30 versus 1990-2010. From 2010 to 2019, global annual improvements in energy intensity averaged around 1.9%, well below the target, and the average annual rate of improvement now has to reach 3.2% to make up for lost ground. This rate would need to be even higher – consistently over four per cent for the rest of this decade – if the world is to reach net-zero-emissions from the energy sector by 2050, as envisioned in the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. Early estimates for 2020 point to a substantial decrease in intensity improvement owing to the COVID-19 crisis, as a result of a higher share of energy-intensive activities in the economy and lower energy prices. The outlook for 2021 suggests a return to a 1.9% rate of improvement, the average rate during the previous decade, thanks to a sharper focus on energy efficiency policies, particularly in COVID-19 recovery packages. However, energy efficiency policies and investment need to be scaled up significantly to bring the SDG 7.3 target within reach.

International Financial Flows. International public financial flows to developing countries in support of clean energy decreased for the second year in a row, falling to USD 10.9 billion in 2019, despite the immense needs for sustainable development in most countries and growing urgency of climate change. The amount was down by nearly 24% from the previous year and may be worsened by the pandemic in 2020. Overall, the level of financing remains below what is needed to reach SDG 7, particularly in the most vulnerable and least developed countries.

The decrease was seen in most regions, with the only exception in Oceania, where international public flows rose by 72%. The bulk of decreases were concentrated in East and Southeast Asia, where they fell by 66.2%; Latin America and the Caribbean, where they dropped by 29.8%; and Central and South Asia, where they declined by 24.5%.

Although the private sector finances most renewable energy investments, public finance remains key to attract private capital, including for creating an enabling environment for private investments, developing the needed infrastructure, and addressing perceived and real risks and barriers for investments in the energy transition. International public flows to countries that lack the financial resources to support their energy transitions constitute a large part of the international collaboration that will be needed for a global energy transition that would bring the world closer to achieving all SDGs.

Indicators and data for tracking progress. Tracking global progress for SDG 7 targets requires high-quality, reliable and comparable data for informed and effective policymaking at the global, regional and country levels. The quality of data has been improving through national and international cooperation and solid statistical capacity. National data systems improve as countries establish legal frameworks and institutional arrangements for comprehensive data collection for energy supply and demand balances; implement end-user surveys (e.g., households, businesses, etc.); and develop quality-assurance frameworks. However, after the pandemic hit and disrupted the rate of progress toward SDG 7, more investment in quality statistics is needed to know where we stand and how to get back on track. This is especially important for developing countries, particularly Least Developed Countries, to inform their national energy policies and strategies to ensure no one is left behind.

UAE, US commit to jointly tackle climate challenge

ABU DHABI, UAE, 5 April 2021: The United Arab Emirates and the United States announced their joint commitment to tackle the climate challenge in a Joint Statement that stresses the importance and urgency of raising global climate ambition. Both countries announced their intent to cooperate on new investments in financing decarbonisation across the MENA region and beyond, and to focus on assisting the most vulnerable adapt to the effects of climate change.

H.E. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, said: “Together with the US, the UAE has affirmed that decisive, proactive climate action can be an engine for economic growth and sustainable development. Building on the legacy and experience of the UAE, which has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to sustainable development and today operates three of the world’s largest solar facilities, we will focus, together with the US, on joint efforts on renewable energy, hydrogen, industrial decarbonization, carbon capture and storage, nature-based solutions, and low-carbon urban design.

“The UAE is rich in opportunities with the world’s lowest solar power costs, and significant carbon capture investments. We look forward to sharing our experience with the international community to turn climate action into economic opportunity.”

Noting the progress made by many leading companies, both countries agreed to work closely with the private sector to mobilize the necessary investment and technology resources needed to stem the climate crisis and support the economy.

At the national level, the United States and the United Arab Emirates confirmed their intent to work towards decarbonising their economies according to their national circumstances and economic development plans, including reducing carbon emissions by 2030.

The United States and the United Arab Emirates stressed their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote the success of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

The Joint Statement emerges from the UAE Regional Dialogue for Climate Action, held on April 4. The event convened climate leaders from across the MENA region and unveiled a new era of cooperation in the region for a future focused on prosperity through climate policy, investment, innovation and sustainable economic growth.

The Dialogue drew the participation of high-level dignitaries from across the region as well as critical global partners and organisations. Participants included COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma and US Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, together with ministers and high-level representatives from the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The event further reinforced the UAE’s regional climate leadership, providing a common ground for participating nations to build a shared vision for climate action ahead of COP26.

UAE to host GCC and MENA regional climate dialogue

ABU DHABI, UAE, 1 April 2021: The United Arab Emirates will host the Regional Climate Dialogue for climate action on April 4 in Abu Dhabi, in advance of the Leaders Summit on Climate, to take place in Washington DC later this month and in the run up to COP26. The UAE regional dialogue will include the participation of John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and Alok Sharma, COP 26 President, together with ministers and high-level climate representatives from the GCC and Mena regions.

As part of its well established role as a convener on climate action, the UAE has also invited International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director-General, Francesco La Camera, to attend the Dialogue. The event will focus on national and regional preparations for the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), set to run from November 1 to 12, 2021. The COP26 Summit, hosted this year by the United Kingdom in Glasgow, will bring together countries from across the globe to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

His Excellency Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said: “We look forward to welcoming Special Envoy Kerry and COP26 President Alok Sharma, along with Ministers and high-level representatives of the key economies of the GCC and MENA region to Abu Dhabi for this important dialogue. The UAE has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to progressive climate action and sought to promote sustainable development throughout the region.  By coming together for this dialogue, I believe we can create greater momentum for progress. The UAE views climate action as an opportunity for economic development, while contributing practical solutions to a global problem that affects us all. As the world seeks new pathways to ‘building back better’ in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Special Envoy Kerry’s visit will help consolidate efforts on smart sustainable solutions with tangible benefits for the global community.

“We are already seeing great examples of climate leadership throughout our region, including the recently announced initiative by our brotherly neighbors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The regional climate dialogue will provide a constructive platform for the MENA region to unite around progressive, practical solutions that can help the world reach global climate goals, while also fostering innovation for sustainable growth.”

Speaking in advance of the meeting, COP 26 President Alok Sharma said: “It is vitally important that the world works together to tackle climate change. That means countries coming forward with net-zero targets and near-term emissions reduction targets (the 2030 NDCs) that keep 1.5 degrees within reach. The transition to a clean economy is one which can benefit us all: through creating jobs, spurring sustainable development, and cleaning our air. We are already beginning to see progress, and countries in the MENA region are well placed to take advantage of the economic opportunities of this transition. However, the consequences of climate change are already being felt across the region, and the UK will use its COP26 Presidency to build momentum on adaptation to help to keep countries, communities and people safe from the impacts of climate change.”

The Regional Climate Dialogue will provide an ideal platform for the participating countries to exchange experience in their responses to climate change and build momentum for increased global ambition in the run-up to COP26. In addition, it will enable the United States and the MENA region to examine new areas of collaboration in the field of climate change mitigation and adaptation with the aim of transforming the climate challenge into an economic opportunity.

Core themes will include accelerating the deployment of renewable energy solutions, exploring the potential of new zero-carbon-energy sources, such as green and blue hydrogen, maximizing the impact of mitigation technologies, including carbon capture, and reducing the carbon emission intensity of hydrocarbon fuels, on which the world will still rely during the energy transition. The conversation will discuss policies for adaptation to the impacts of accelerating climate change trends that are of particular concern to the region, such as food and water security, desertification mitigation and environmental conservation.

The participants will seek to develop a common understanding of climate action priorities, as well as a roadmap for cooperation towards COP26 and related milestones.

Ministry of Climate Change and Environment launches policies to boost UAE’s sustainability agenda

ABU DHABI, UAE, 24 January 2021: His Excellency Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, launched new initiatives and policies to boost the UAE’s sustainability agenda, the Ministry said through a Press release.  The launch happened during the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the Ministry added.

The Minister highlighted the importance of driving coordinated action to expedite the energy transition and increase the share of renewables in the countries’ energy mix at the opening ceremony of the 11th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). He reflected on the UAE’s journey in deploying renewables at home and abroad, leading to a considerable surge in its domestic production capacity, as well as playing an effective and distinct role in reducing the cost of renewable energy worldwide.

At the Ministerial Plenary Meeting on National Energy Planning and Implementation for Fostering Energy Transition, Dr Al Nuaimi presented the UAE’s new climate ambitions, set out in its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. He noted that the NDC fell under the country’s national economic and energy diversification drive, manifested in its current energy transition.

Moreover, Dr Al Nuaimi delivered the closing remarks at the first joint meeting to prepare for two landmark UN summits that will take place in New York in September 2021 – the Food Systems Summit and the High-level Dialogue on Energy. The participants proposed targets, policies, initiatives, and other outcomes for the summits that have simultaneous food, energy and climate benefits.

At a panel session, titled ‘COP26 – a Crucial Stepping Stone on the Path to a Sustainable Global Recovery’, the Minister stressed that the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) is a timely opportunity for leaders to resume climate negotiations and work on a shared vision for raising climate ambition in the context of a green recovery.

He pointed out that throughout the tough times posed by COVID-19, the UAE has remained dedicated to accelerating its transition to a green economy, as part of its recovery plans, and has taken great strides along this path, including moving forward with its renewables and nuclear projects.

At the third edition of the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum, His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi announced the launch of the UAE Sustainable Finance Framework 2021-2031 in partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Pioneered by the Ministry, the national framework supports the mobilisation of private capital towards low-carbon, environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient investments.

With the aim of ensuring the UAE emerges as a leader in climate knowledge, the Minister launched the UAE Climate Change Research Network that brings together a group of committed scientists and researchers to advance climate data collection and policy-relevant research on climate change impacts and adaptation. The Network presents opportunities for climate scientists in the UAE to engage with one another and with their peers from other countries as well as to facilitate research collaborations.

Dr Al Nuaimi also unveiled the inaugural edition of The UAE State of Climate Report, which provides an overview of the state of knowledge on historical and projected climate changes and their impacts on the UAE and the wider Arabian Gulf region.

On the sidelines of ADSW 2021, the Minister opened the winners’ announcement of the third edition of the Global Innovation Award (GIA), organised by Globally on behalf of MOCCAE. The competition aims to attract innovations from around the world to the UAE to support the country in its quest to become a world leader in sustainable development. This year’s GIA received a record number of applications – more than 1,200 from 65 countries. The winner was Cambrian Innovation, from the United States, with its innovative waste-to-energy solution that purifies wastewater while producing energy from the contaminants.

Minister of Climate Change and Environment confirms UAE’s new NDC is part of its economic, energy diversification drive

DUBAI, UAE, 19 January, 2021: His Excellency Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, today participated in the Ministerial Plenary Meeting on National Energy Planning and Implementation for Fostering Energy Transition as part of the 11th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Ministry said through a Press release.

The virtual session provided an opportunity to discuss emerging experience in reinforcing energy planning and implementation at the national level, and aligning it with global climate action and goals through the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Ministry said.

Highlighting the new targets set as part of the UAE’s NDC, His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi said: “With the support of our stakeholders, we were able to increase our ambition to reduce carbon emissions to 23.5% compared to business as usual for the year 2030. This translates into absolute emission reduction of about 70 million tons. Our clean power capacity is on track to reach 14 GW by 2030, from 125 MW in 2015 and 2.4 GW at present. To date, we have invested more than USD 40 billion in clean energy projects locally.

“While the approval and implementation of the NDC is a key milestone, it’s only one step in the right direction. The move falls under our national economic and energy diversification drive, manifested in the country’s current energy transition.”

The Minister reiterated the UAE’s commitment to doing its part to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and joining forces with the rest of the world to fight climate change.

His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi also participated in a press briefing organized by IRENA alongside His Excellency Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA, and Her Excellency Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA.

Addressing members of the media, the Minister commended the role of IRENA in facilitating and guiding the decarbonisation efforts of its members around the world, and its significant contribution to the growth of the renewables market. Furthermore, he praised the Agency for providing its expertise to assist countries in revising their NDCs over the past year with a focus on increasing the share of renewables in national pledges.

He added: “The work of IRENA couldn’t be more important. Renewable energy holds the solution to many of the issues the world faces today, such as climate change, air pollution, and economic slowdown. Therefore, its deployment should be a key item on the world’s sustainability agenda, along with leveraging cutting-edge technologies and artificial intelligence to ensure we respond smartly, promptly, and efficiently to the most pressing challenges.”

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