United Nations Initiatives and Reports

The United Nations (UN) has addressed the topic of renewable energy through resolutions and other initiatives. This page discusses just a few of the documents and programs that outline the UN’s position on renewable or sustainable energy.

Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report 2023

In 2023, the United Nations released Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report 2023, the background for which follows:

“The Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report provides the most comprehensive look available at the world’s progress towards global energy targets on access to electricity, clean cooking, renewable energy, and energy efficiency and gives the international community the latest global dashboard to register progress on the SDG7 targets. The report is prepared by the SDG7 Indicator Custodian Agencies - the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), UN DESA, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO).”[1]

This report is available here.

SDG7 Policy Briefs 2023

The policy briefs on SDG7 were compiled by multiple stakeholders from the Technical Advisory Group convened by UN DESA and focuses on recommendations for advancing SDG7.[2]  The policy briefs are titled, “Ensuring Universal Energy Access and Advancing Just, Inclusive, and Equitable Energy Transitions,” and can be accessed here.

Accelerating SDG7 Achievement

In 2018, the United Nations published a report titled Accelerating SDG7 Achievement: Policy Briefs in Support of the First SDG7 Review at the UN High-Level Political Forum 2018. According to the UN:

"The publication, “Accelerating SDG 7 achievement: Policy briefs in support of the first SDG 7 review at the UN High-Level Political Forum 2018,” includes 27 policy briefs by global energy authorities from the UN System, international organizations, Member States and others. It proposes a new Global Agenda for Accelerated SDG7 Action as a clear roadmap towards achieving universal energy access by 2030 and maximizing its positive impact on other SDGs."[3]

This document is available here.

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In 2015, the United Nations released a document titled Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Preamble for this document is as follows:

"This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognise that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan. We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve. They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental. The Goals and targets will stimulate action over the next fifteen years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet."[4]

This document discusses Goal 7: Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. The document is available here.

Special Edition: Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals

In May 2019, the United Nations published a report titled Special Edition: Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals. A summary of this report is as follows:

"The present report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals is submitted in response to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (General Assembly resolution 70/1).

As the first cycle of the implementation and review of the Sustainable Development Goals comes to a close and Member States prepare for the high-level political forum in July and five major meetings focused on sustainable development to be held in September, this ‘special edition’ of the progress report on the Goals was written in cooperation with the United Nations System Task Team on the High-level Political Forum, co-chaired by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme.

The report demonstrates that over the past four years, progress has been made with regard to a number of Sustainable Development Goals and their targets, and a number of actions have been undertaken by Governments and other stakeholders to respond to the 2030 Agenda more broadly.

The report also demonstrates, however, that progress has been slow on many Sustainable Development Goals, that the most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most and that the global response thus far has not been ambitious enough.

With the next decade of implementation in mind, the present report identifies a series of cross-cutting areas where political leadership and urgent, scalable multi-stakeholder action are needed to dramatically accelerate progress. Doing so will allow the United Nations to shift the world onto a trajectory that is compatible with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030."[5]

This document is available here.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019

In 2019, the United Nations published The Sustainable Development Goals Report. According to the Introduction within this report:

"Four years after signing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries have taken action to integrate the Goals and targets into their national development plans and to align policies and institutions behind them. The Sustainable Development Goals 2019 uses the latest available data to track global progress on the SDGs and to take stock of how far we have come in realizing our commitments. The report shows that, while advances have been made in some areas, monumental challenges remain. The evidence and data spotlight areas that require urgent attention and more rapid progress to realize the 2030 Agenda’s far-reaching vision."[6]

Pages 36-37 of the report focus on Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. The report is available here.

Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018

In 2018, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), along with its partners, released a report titled Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018. According to the report:

"The 2018 Global Trends report concentrates on renewable power and fuels—wind, solar, biomass and waste, biofuels, geothermal, and marine projects, and small hydro-electric dams of less than 50 MW."[7]

The report features figures, such as the one below, that outline key trends in global renewable energy investment.

Source: United Nations Environment Programme, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and FS-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance, 2018[8]

This report is available here.

Updated by Erin George, December 2023