Globalisation, deregulation and consumerism are among the hallmarks of a changing world - one that is technologically-driven, interconnected and increasingly interdependent.
Amidst all our advances in technology and greater economic integration, we still have more than 2.8bn people without access to clean cooking facilities. That’s about 37% of the current world population of 7.6bn.
Also, more than 1.1bn people are still without electricity.
A third of the world’s population – 2.5bn people – relies on the traditional use of solid biomass to cook their meals. Around 120mn people use kerosene and 170mn use coal.
There has been some progress though: since 2000, the number of people in developing countries with access to clean cooking – principally liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas and electricity, has grown by 60%, and the number of people cooking with coal and kerosene has more than halved.
However, strong population growth in developing countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa, has meant that the number of people relying on biomass for cooking has grown by 400mn, despite growing awareness of the associated health risks and decades of programmes targeting access to modern cooking.
This clearly highlights the importance of ensuring access to modern, affordable and reliable energy to large populations of the world.
Energy access is the “golden thread” that weaves together economic growth, human development and environmental sustainability, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 and ‘SDG 7.1’ specifically – the goal to ensure access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy for all by 2030 – established some level of political recognition for energy’s central role in development.
But providing electricity for all by 2030 would require annual investment of $52bn a year, more than twice the level mobilised under current and planned policies, IEA says.
At a recent event in Doha, HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, a global energy industry veteran, outlined the importance of providing affordable, reliable, and modern energy to achieve global sustainable development.
Al-Attiyah noted that more than 800mn people still live in extreme poverty; one out of nine people are starving; 2.5bn are without access to clean water and more than 1bn people have no access to modern electricity.
He emphasised on the importance of natural gas on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and said it should be an “integral part of the long-term energy mix because it is an abundant, affordable, available and acceptable” source of energy.
Using natural gas, unlike other fossil fuels, would be beneficial to the environment. Natural gas emits virtually no sulphur oxides, and up to 80% less nitrogen oxides than coal.
A diversified energy mix is the solution for most countries; al-Attiyah said and noted that the preferred use of gas enables a substitution away from coal and fuel oil for power generation purposes, thereby reducing local carbon dioxide emissions.
Providing energy for all would significantly improve the lives of those without access and boost their economic prospects. Women in particular stand to gain by cutting the time spent gathering fuel and cooking and avoiding household air pollution.
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