SDG 7 and sustainable energy development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Author:McDade, Susan
Position:Sustainable development goals

Looking back on the recent 70th anniversary of the United Nations and the monumental adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is necessary to pause and recognize the historic achievement of the inclusion of SDG 7 on energy in the new agenda. This incorporation of sustainable energy within the SDGs framework is nothing short of a demonstration of the influence of the United Nations and its Member States in transforming world perspectives on crucial issues, and in setting new norms and universal values while solving many global challenges found in today's politics, economics and environmental debates.

Energy has long been a part of the global debate, the history of which mirrors divergent perspectives that have been under consideration at the United Nations for decades. SDG 7 is a result of this long journey and an important step in the efforts of the United Nations to focus on interrelated social, environmental, economic and policy challenges related to the production, distribution and access to the services dependent upon energy supply. SDG 7 aims to "ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all." In recent decades, as the United Nations has discussed relative inefficiency of conventional energy and its detrimental effects on climate change, the problem of energy production and consumption has acquired the negative connotation of being a global "environmental bad". At the same time, many important positive aspects of energy use, which are essential to underpinning so-called "global goods", such as economic development, social justice and equitable inclusion in modernization process, were crowded out by the focus on the negative environmental impacts of conventional approaches to energy.

These two perspectives have often divided the North and the South, reflecting upon their conflicting priorities in the energy sector. From the United Nations action plan known as Agenda 21 (1992) (1), which has no chapter on energy, through the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-9) (2001) (2) to the World Summit on Sustainable Development Rio+10 (3) in 2002, energy remained a highly contentious issue with two competing visions. While some perceived it as a "social and economic good", others considered energy related issues as an "environmental bad". It was in this context that following the Millennium Declaration (4) energy was not included as a specific Millennium Development Goal (MDG) (5), becoming instead "the missing" MDG. Yet energy itself has never been the problem. It is the way energy is produced, packaged, transported and commercialized that determines if its impacts are negative, especially when considering global carbon emissions. And this is only part of the picture. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative as a way to refocus the debate on the essential role energy plays in a global sustainable development agenda, while at the same time emphasizing the need to protect the environment. This also naturally provides a role for the competencies of the United Nations system, multilateral development banks, and many other partners to come together to...

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