Sustainable Development Goal Seven – An Australian Focus

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.

Sustainable Development Goal 7: ENSURE ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE, RELIABLE, SUSTAINABLE AND MODERN ENERGY FOR ALL

  • Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.
  • Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global E_SDG goals_icons-individual-rgb-07energy mix.
  • Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
  • Enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil‐fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology.

 

The Issue

Most of us simply flick a switch – the light comes on, the TV comes on, the heater or fan comes on – we hardly even think about it. Yet for thousands of Australians, every time they go to use electricity, they count the cost and weigh up whether they can afford to use the light or the heater today.  Rising energy costs over the last decade have created an unprecedented cost burden for many people, including many families. The Salvation Army’s Economic Social Impact Survey (ESIS) 2017 found that disconnections for missing payments of bills doubled in the last 5 years.[1]

The growing statistics around the affordability of energy for a significant portion of our population are grim. ACOSS’s Empowering Households Report 2017 found that:

  • 24% of households with children have gone without school books or uniforms in order to pay energy bills, with nearly 7% doing so on a regular basis
  • 31% of households with children have gone without school excursions or activities in order to pay energy bills, with nearly 9% doing so on a regular basis
  • 76.8% of people surveyed had not used any heating, or limited their heating to a single room to reduce their energy usage, with 15% of people indicating this was something that they always did. Again, nearly 50% lived in households with children.[2]

That any parent in modern day Australia has to choose between school uniforms or heating the family home is an indictment on our energy system.

The ESIS and ACCOSS reports also found that those who are already marginalised and vulnerable in our society (such as those receiving unemployment or student allowances, pensioners, renters, single-parent families, people living in poverty while in paid work, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and households where someone has a disability or medical condition) are far more likely to be vulnerable to energy stress and have to make cost-saving choices in other areas such as food and healthcare.[3]

When we consider the cleanliness and sustainability of Australian energy, our report card is not much better. Around 90% of electricity used in Australia is still generated from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, and over 34% of Australia’s emissions come from electricity generation. This makes the electricity sector the biggest single contributor to Australia’s greenhouse emissions.[4] While positive changes are being made in this sector, we can and should be doing much more with the amazing resources God has given us. ANU’s ‘Centre for Climate Economics and Policy’ claims that Australia could sustainably achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, yet the political will seems lacking to match this aspiration with policy.

Lt. Col. Dean Pallant, Director of the ISJC says in Go and Do Something, “The relationship of God to Creation is one of loving care and concern.” This includes all people and all things. Humanity’s stewardship of the earth is a reflection of that care and our provision of clean and affordable energy an outworking of being good stewards. As with all of God’s creation, there is enough to share. Lt. Col. Pallant finishes his reflection in Go and Do Something with this observation, “This is a complex problem. There are no simple solutions, but that does not mean we can avoid the problem, close our eyes and hope it goes away.”

 

What can we do?

  • Support The Salvation Army’s call for “The development of a national plan to focus on the growing poverty and inequality in Australia and welcome[s] government investment to strategically and jointly address the fundamental/structural issues that lead to disadvantage and poverty.”[5]
  • Turn off your energy-using items like the TV, heater, fan and so on when they are not being used. This reduces the load on the system and the production of emissions. Install energy efficient appliances where possible.
  • Urge your local Member of Parliament to do more in regards to moving away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable energy sources. We have a useful tool to help you find your local member.
  • Commit this SDG to prayer both individually and as a Corps
     – Pray for people in the world who have access to energy – may we always be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us. May we never be wasteful or arrogant by consuming more than needed.
     – Pray for those who are working to develop sustainable sources of energy – may they have insight and wisdom to develop solutions which benefit the poorest members of society.
     – Pray for those who cannot access enough power for their basic needs.[6]

 

For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 7, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.

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[1] ESIS 2017, 40.
[2] ACOSS Empowering Households report 2017
[3] Ibid.
[4] ‘GreenPower Fact sheet’ – Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), https://www.arrcc.org.au/info_resources
[5] ESIS 2017, 66.
[6] ‘Go and Do Something’, ISJC, 19.

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