The SDGs set a goal to protect the planet “so it can support the needs of the present and future generations.” Nearly every day we are seeing just how connected – and fundamental – climate change is to global development.
Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the impacts already felt around the world make clear that we need to increase urgency and ambition on climate change and environmental protection. The Secretary-General’s recent trip to the Pacific was capped by a TIME cover of the UN’s leader submerged in water, denoting rapidly sinking islands.
The world is facing a climate emergency that is outpacing our efforts to address it. The global emissions rate jumped last year. At current rates, global warming is likely to reach at least 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052, leading to significant risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth. Without rapid and all-encompassing transitions, these impacts will be even worse.
Climate change is a roadblock to achieving the SDGs and has disproportionate effects on the poor. Without concerted action, it could drive 100 million more people into poverty by 2030. Warming is expected to decrease crop yields in many areas, exacerbating food insecurity, undernutrition, and stunting in poor communities. Achieving key SDGs can also play a role in addressing climate change, but only if they are achieved in a climate compatible manner.
The world is also facing dire challenges in addressing biodiversity and environmental protection. Human actions have already significantly altered three-quarters of land and two-thirds of marine environments. Today, around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, which is the highest number in human history. While deforestation has slowed, it still continues around the world, and land degradation and desertification have increased. In most regions, water quality has significantly worsened since 1990 due to organic and chemical pollution, and more than 75 percent of freshwater resources are now devoted to crops or livestock production.
However, there is positive movement. Marine protection has seen a recent uptick; forest loss is declining; and citizens around the world are increasingly pressuring their governments to pursue climate-smart policies and governments are acting. Countries like the United Kingdom, Chile, Finland, and the Marshall Islands, have developed concrete and detailed plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. In the United States, 25 governors have committed to act on climate to advance the goals of the Paris Agreement, even as the national government has vowed to withdraw. Cities, businesses, and local communities are setting ambitious plans and policies but now need to turn those plans into action.
Given the clear need to increase action on climate change, the UN Secretary-General is hosting a major climate summit in September.
“End poverty in all its forms everywhere.”
Extreme poverty has been cut by more than half since 1990. Still, around 1 in 10 people live on less than the target figure of international-$1.90 per day. A very low poverty threshold is justified by highlighting the need of those people who are worst off. SDG 1 is to end extreme poverty globally by 2030.
“Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
The Sustainable Development Goal Number 6 (SDG6) has eight targets and 11 indicators that will be used to monitor progress toward the targets. Most are to be achieved by the year 2030. One is targeted for 2020.
The first three targets relate to drinking water supply and sanitation.
“Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
Targets for 2030 include access to affordable and reliable energy while increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. This would involve improving energy efficiency and enhancing international cooperation to facilitate more open access to clean energy technology and more investment in clean energy infrastructure. Plans call for particular attention to infrastructure support for the least developed countries, small islands and land-locked developing countries.
“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy.”
The economic development and climate change are inextricably linked, particularly around poverty, gender equality, and energy. The UN encourages the public sector to take initiative in this effort to minimize negative impacts on the environment.
“Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”
Sustainable Development Goal 14 aims “to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” Effective strategies to mitigate adverse effects of increased ocean acidification are needed to advance the sustainable use of oceans. As areas of protected marine biodiversity expand, there has been an increase in ocean science funding, essential for preserving marine resources.
“Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.”
This goal articulates targets for preserving biodiversity of forest, desert, and mountain eco-systems, as a percentage of total land mass. Achieving a “land degradation-neutral world” can be reached by restoring degraded forests and land lost to drought and flood. Goal 15 calls for more attention to preventing invasion of introduced species and more protection of endangered species.