Mapping the Renewable Energy Sector to the Sustainable Development Goals

Lead PI:

Unit Affiliation: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI)

Unknown start date - Ongoing
Project Type:

DESCRIPTION: In September 2015, the UN member states agreed to a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which represent the global agenda for equitable, socially inclusive, and environmentally sustainable economic development through 2030.

The renewable energy industry is instrumental to the success of the SDGs. Renewable energy is core to the implementation of SDG 7, on access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy, and SDG 13, on urgent action to combat climate change. New developments in renewable energy—solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal, among others—are necessary to replace fossil fuels in the global energy system, and can also bring modern, affordable energy to the near 1.1 billion around the world who lack access to electricity. Access to clean energy is also an essential prerequisite to achieve many of the other SDGs.

However, renewable energy projects have at times undermined the achievement of the SDGs and adversely affected human rights. Local communities confront some of the most prominent negative impacts, including economic and physical displacement, harm to livelihoods, and violations of indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent.

Given the urgency and scale at which renewables must be deployed to meet the world’s climate goals, it is especially critical that we understand their potential impacts—both positive and negative—on each SDG, to ensure that renewable energy driven development does not come at the expense of other development goals.

OUTCOMES: CCSI has partnered with the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Equitable Origin, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) to create “Mapping the Renewable Energy Sector to the Sustainable Development Goals: An Atlas,” which aims to provide a shared understanding of how the renewable energy sector can most effectively contribute to the SDGs. The Atlas traces the many points of intersection between renewable energy and the SDGs, including ways in which the renewable sector can contribute toward the realization of the SDGs, the risks renewable energy operations can pose for sustainable development and the realization of human rights, and the implications of the SDGs for the industry’s future operations, with special attention to the interconnections of the human rights framework with the SDGs.


Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Equitable Origin, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network


sustainable development goals fossil fuels renewable energy sustainable energy climate change


Sustainable living