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The renewable energy industry is instrumental to the success of the SDGs. Renewable energy is core to the implementation of SDG 7 (access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy) and SDG 13 (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 (FPIC).

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.

SDSN has partnered with the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, and Equitable Origin to create a shared understanding of how the renewable energy sector can most effectively contribute to the SDGs. This document maps 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. Building on the success of our earlier mapping project, Mapping Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals: An Atlas, special attention will be paid to the interconnections of the human rights framework with the SDGs.

This version of the document has been released for public consultation. We invite feedback on how the content can be improved from individuals and organizations, from all sectors including government, companies, academia, civil society, and international organizations. We’d especially like to know:

  • How can we strengthen the Atlas to be more useful for renewable energy companies?
  • Is there additional content that is currently missing?
  • Is anything repetitive, or would you rephrase something?
  • Do you recommend any additional case studies for inclusion?
  • Other constructive advice.

Feedback should be submitted via our feedback form, embedded below. If you have more comments than the form allows, please submit a second form with the additional feedback. The deadline for submitting comments is April 15, 2019. Comments will be incorporated into a final version of the document, to be released during the summer of 2019.