(Clean) Energy: an human right

10 Dec

Today Human Rights Day marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being.  

This celebration is an unbeatable framework to remind universal access to energy is not just a means to an end but rather it is a human right in itself, especially when looked upon other basic rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948 recognises rights such as that of life, food, health, education etc. being deeply linked with access to energy services.

Today, even though fair and effective access to energy services is regarded as a human right worldwide, there are many communities and regions where people still consume toxic fuels at home, not to mention the lack of electricity grids. Without proper electricity infrastructure and grid, the vulnerable and isolated communities cannot have direct access to modern services in terms of education, industry or medical ones, among others.

On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit — officially came into force. The Goal 7 “Affordable and clean energy” aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy to all by 2030. Notably, it will increase the share of renewable energy, amplify the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030, and develop new energy infrastructure, especially in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).  As per the Least Developed Country (LDC) Report 2017: “62 percent of people in LDCs have no access to electricity, compared with 10 percent across other developing countries”.

When world leaders adopted those SDGs and, a short time later, the Paris Climate Agreement, they agreed to usher in the energy transition (from fossil fuels to clean and renewable solutions).  Thus, States are required also to create a protocol which ensures universal access to energy.

Thanks to innovation, renewable energy is more affordable and more accessible for people no matter social level. Distributed renewable energy systems such as micro-hydroelectric systems, solar panels or wind turbines, among other sources can be generated close to where it is needed, even in isolated communities. Besides, new business models and new financing could help this transition out.

All those factors seem to be aligned to ensure that no one is left behind the clean energy transition, which is critical for climate justice, as well as, reaching the humming rights.