10/04/2023, 18.52
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Some 53 million Asians still have no access to electricity

The figure comes from the report released today by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on the 2030 UN sustainability goals, on the same day, Pope Francis published his “Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum. Some 1.2 billion Asians use old, polluting energy at home. Progress made in renewable technologies over the past 10 years has been concentrated only in a few countries.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – At least 53 million Asians have no access to electricity and 1.2 billion people in rural areas depend on traditional energy sources (wood, animal waste, coal) to cook and heat their homes, this according to the latest report by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The report’s findings are in line with the Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum Pope Francis released today. For the pontiff, eight years after the publication of the Encyclical "Laudato sì, “responses have not been adequate” to counter the effects of climate change and ensure an equitable distribution of resources between advanced and developing countries.

Titled Closing the Gap for SDG 7 in the Asia-Pacific Region, the ESCAP report highlights how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal N. 7 – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 – is proving hard to reach in Asia.

Despite recent improvements, the continent with more than half of the world's population, consumes more than 40 per cent of global energy and produces more than 50 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

While 53 million people may still not have access to electricity, progress in Asia-Pacific has been faster than the global average. The share of the region’s population with access to electricity rose from 87.2 per cent in 2010 to above 98 per cent in 2021 thanks to "power grid extensions and the deployment of decentralized technologies to remote and rural communities”.

In the same period, access to clean technology for cooking rose from 50 per cent to over 70 per cent, still far from the goal of universal access.

The continent is undergoing rapid development that feeds a growing demand for energy, which will continue in the coming years.

The use of renewable energy has also grown in recent years – from 29.2 per cent in 2011 to 38.2 per cent in 2020 – because of technological advances and falling costs, a trend that is expected to continue, but investments have been concentrated in only a few countries (Japan, South Korea, China, India, and some countries in Southeast Asia like Vietnam and Indonesia).

Clean energy production and the construction of modern energy infrastructure remain a problem for most Asians, with coal and oil still the main sources of energy. In 2020, coal accounted for 42.2 per cent of total energy supply, oil for 23.4 per cent, and natural gas, another 19.1 per cent.

Coal dependence, the report explains, affects climate change, but also gender equality, health, and poverty levels.

Although three in four Asia-Pacific countries are committed to cutting emissions to zero in the coming decades, they will not be able to meet UN goals by 2030. Levels of progress vary widely from one country to another, with vulnerable countries lagging the most for lack of investment.

Many of those without access to electricity live in a limited number of countries, like Myanmar, where a civil war broke out two years ago; Pakistan, hit by a major economic crisis; Papua New Guinea, and India.

This provides “an opportunity for attaining a significant impact from a small number of interventions in those locations.” In Afghanistan for example, before the Taliban came back to power two years ago, the electrification rate rose from 1.6 per cent in 2000 to 97.7 per cent in 2021 thanks to grid extension and new technologies.

Energy demand has been steadily rising in the industrial sector, consolidating Asia's role as the world's manufacturing hub, while the region's consumption in the transport sector has grown by 91.5 per cent, an increase due to the rapid growth of the region's middle class.

As people move to the cities and become more affluent, the number of vehicles on the road has increased significantly.

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”