The golden thread that connects the three dimensions of sustainability


Renewables have the potential of improving the quality of life for millions around the world while advancing progress in all areas of development.

By May East, Unitar Fellow |

Last year saw record worldwide investment and implementation of clean energy such as wind, solar and hydropower. According to Renewables 2016 Global Status Report, renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels in many markets and are established around the world as mainstream sources of energy.

Cities consume 75% of the world’s natural resources, account for 80% of global energy consumption and 75% of the carbon emissions. The irreversible urbanisation of our world requires a revolution on energy planning which could initiate a rapid transformation to low-carbon, resilient and safe urban energy systems.

Renewables have the potential of improving the quality of life for millions in the cities while cutting carbon emissions and advancing progress in many areas of urban development. Low-carbon-emission power generation from renewable sources: photovoltaic solar power, thermal solar power, wind power, heat pumps, geothermics, biomass, heat recovery from air extracted from buildings are some of the technologies that are increasingly powering our cities in an aggregate of systems that talk to each other. Access to affordable renewable energy is vital to cities that aspire to be environmentally resilient, socially inclusive and economically productive.

With renewed commitment to climate action following the Paris Conference of Parties (COP21) Agreement, renewable energy is increasingly seen as the golden thread that can connect increased social equity, economic growth and an environment that allows the world to thrive. The establishment of renewable energy schemes has been most successful when the key enablers — investors, producers, users, promoters and regulators — have worked together to overcome barriers. This level of cooperation has had a direct effect in the renewable employment sector, which in 2015 only had an estimated increase of 8.1 million direct and indirect jobs according to Renewables 2016 Report. Solar PV and biofuels provided the largest numbers of renewable energy jobs, with large-scale hydropower accounted for an additional 1.3 million direct jobs.

To support the advancement of the SDG7- Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, UNITAR, Gaia Education and the University of Strathclyde, will be conducting an e-learning course on Renewable Energies for Sustainable Development. Starting on 6th Sept, the course aims to enhance the capacity of local decision makers, energy and sustainable development officers and other personnel to make an informed decision on which renewable energy technologies will meet their own needs or the needs of their municipalities, communities, villages or neighbourhoods. It aims to provide an overview of clean, secure and sustainable technology options for the development and offer insights into the management of renewable energy projects, from small scale to major projects. Developed by world-renowned experts in the renewable energy field, the course is an official contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL).

This article was originally published in UN Special Magazine.


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