DESA Assesses National Progress on SDG 7 through 2018 VNRs
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
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A review of VNRs presented in 2018 notes that 61 per cent of the VNRs mention interlinkages between energy and other SDGs, such as transport and gender, but a majority of the reviews do not elaborate on the connection between SDG 7 objectives and nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

It also indicates that ambition levels on energy access are encouragingly high in the reviews, but they are often not accompanied by action plans on implementation and financing.

December 2018: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has issued a report analyzing SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy) in the 46 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) reports submitted for the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The report finds that, while the reviews contain many encouraging examples, the ambition levels and action plans reflected in the VNRs suggest that greater effort is required to reach all the SDG 7 targets by 2030. The report also notes that a majority of VNRs do not contain sufficient data “on the state of play” with regard to the main SDG 7 indicators, nor on the specific targets to be reached by 2030.

The VNRs were called for by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to facilitate the sharing of national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating SDG implementation. They are presented yearly at the HLPF by approximately 40-50 countries that have volunteered to do so.

In July 2018, the HLPF convened under the theme, ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies,’ and reviewed SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy) for the first time, along with SDGs 6 (Clean water and sanitation), 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), 12 (Responsible consumption and production), 15 (Life on land) and 17 (Partnerships for the goals).

The DESA report titled, ‘Analysis of the Voluntary National Reviews relating to Sustainable Development Goal 7 2018: Ensuring Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable and Modern Energy for All,’ which was prepared by the Division for Sustainable Development Goals, includes sections and best practices on: achieving universal access to electricity; achieving universal access to clean and modern cooking fuels, technologies and services; substantially increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix; doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvement; financing SDG 7; sustainable energy technology innovation; enhancing capacity-building; and strengthening interlinkages between SDG 7 and other Goals.

The report finds that, while the 2018 VNRs provide an assessment of progress made in implementing SDG 7, there is scope for a “further strengthening of the reviews.” It also indicates that ambition levels on energy access are encouragingly high in the reviews, but they are often not accompanied by action plans on implementation and financing.

The analysis shows that clean cooking is the most under-reported issue, with only 27 per cent of the VNRs reporting on this matter, and renewable energy in the electricity sector is progressing at “an inspiring pace,” but progress in terms of results and ambition level is not matched in other end-use sectors, such as transportation, industry and heating and cooling.

The report finds that 89 per cent of VNRs reported on energy efficiency progress and challenges, and energy efficiency as the “first fuel” is prioritized in almost all of the VNRs, but ambitious cross-sectoral integrated policy approaches that promote improvements through targets or fiscal incentives are not mentioned in many reviews. It also states that 61 per cent of VNRs mention interlinkages between energy and other SDGs, such as transport and gender, but a majority of the reviews do not elaborate on the connection between SDG 7 objectives and nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

On means of implementation, the report indicates that: less than one third of the VNRs examined address energy innovation and technology; 30 per cent emphasize the importance and urgent needs of enhancing capacity building; the VNRs give limited attention to financing investment in energy infrastructure, the role of government support schemes, tax incentives and the importance of reforming inefficient fossil fuel subsidies; and 55 per cent of the 2018 VNRs showcase energy partnership, including public-private partnership and cross-regional cooperation.

Per the report, the Multi-Stakeholder Technical Advisory Group on SDG 7, convened by DESA in support of the 2018 HLPF review of SDG 7, produced 27 policy briefs on SDG 7 and its inter-linkages with other SDGs. In addition to feeding into the work of this Group, the report’s findings could also serve as an input to the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September 2019, and the 2019 midpoint review of the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014–2024), the authors note. [Publication: Analysis of the Voluntary National Reviews relating to Sustainable Development Goal 7 2018: Ensuring Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable and Modern Energy for All] [2018 HLPF Website] [2018 VNRs Webpage] [Multi-stakeholder Technical Advisory Group on Sustainable Development Goal 7 Webpage]

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