The energy transition will contribute to positive impacts on the wider human welfare through the improvement of human health and access to energy.
Air pollution is estimated to be the 4th leading risk factor for early death globally. Phasing out fossil fuels - one of the main reasons behind ambient pollution - would improve air quality and therefore have a significant impact on human health. 2019 saw 6.7 million deaths due to air pollution - a number which could be greatly reduced by shifting to a cleaner energy.
Decentralised renewable energy solutions (the use of energy which is generated more locally and independently, e.g. solar and wind energy) will make energy more accessible, impacting the 755 million people living without access to energy (2019 figures). Look at this recent example from UNDP Armenia, where communities with a high influx of displaced people were provided with solar heaters and photovoltaic stations. These long-term sustainable energy solutions improve the households' access to energy, limit the economic impact for host communities and even provide opportunities for future energy independence.
And in this region?
Based on these global socio-economic predictions, we can make some estimations about how the energy transition will affect the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia region.
The countries in this region are characterized by limited economic diversification, dominated by the mining industry (including the extraction of coal and other natural resources) and heavily rely on climate sensitive sectors such as the agriculture sector. Diversifying the economy by integrating renewable energy and new technologies could help support innovation, and increased demand from environment-related expenditures would likely have a positive effect on the creation of green jobs. The increased output would ultimately have a positive impact on the region's GDP.
Countries are challenged by a steady increase of fossil fuel demands and rising carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to their deteriorating air quality. Air pollution is a rising concern which has been analysed in our recent report: Tackling air pollution in Europe and Central Asia for improved health and a greener future. Most capital cities here have higher concentrations of atmospheric ultrafine particles than what is recommended by the World Health Organisation. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy would result in significantly cleaner air and improved human health, thereby increasing human welfare in the region.
In addition to limiting global climate warming at 1.5 degrees, the transition to clean energy would bring benefits across a wide sphere, while also aligning with the needs of a green post-COVID recovery. This is why we’re working on energy solutions and support governments in integrating renewable energy into their sustainable development strategies.
This is part of a series of articles on air pollution in Europe and Central Asia. Around the region, UNDP is working to tackle the problem of air pollution, from getting a sense of its breadth to finding the causes behind it to informing policy and encouraging greener development - so that everyone can breath cleaner air.