A woman kneads cow dung into cakes for fuel


© Reuters / Jitendra Prakash

As the ex-Secretary General of the UNO, Ban Ki-Moon, put it, there is a “golden thread” linking progress to sustainability in this world. That thread is energy. Without energy, we could not power the production, infrastructures and universal services that guarantee wellbeing and development in our communities.
Yet even today, 850 million people still do not have access to electricity for lighting or information access. And for 2.5 billion people, in the absence of any alternative, heating and cooking means burning polluting materials like kerosene, coal, wood, charcoal, brush and animal dung inside the home.
This condition has been termed “energy poverty” precisely because those suffering from it are effectively excluded from all opportunities of emancipation and social improvement. In homes that are too cold (or too hot) and without light and water, it is hard to imagine being able to study, work or raise a family.
Energy poverty also has a dramatic impact on health and the environment. Cardiorespiratory diseases, caused by toxic fumes released by domestic fireplaces, cause over 4 million premature deaths every year in the global south, with women and children accounting for 60% of these.
Great progress has been made at an international level to support electrification in developing countries, but a lot remains to be done to achieve universal access to energy. Investing in clean technologies and renewable energy sources is therefore essential if these inequalities are to be overcome.

Alessandro Braggion