Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals

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SEATTLE — Successfully meeting the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals can improve millions of lives. However, many of the targets are hard to reach unless the world takes drastic climate action. But the complicated relationship between climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals presents a silver lining: action today can fight some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Looking to the road ahead, it is clear that a number of intertwined factors will determine the success of the Sustainable Development goals. As such wide-reaching targets, their implementation rests on more than singular factors. However, wIthout drastically limiting the impacts of climate change, “decades of progress risk being reversed, existing efforts to eradicate poverty nullified,” explains the United Nations.

But how exactly does this connect to the Sustainable Development Goals?

Facts and figures for each goal and its relation to climate change require lengthy explanation. However, the United Nations summarizes that “climate change is projected to undermine food security…exacerbate existing health threats, adversely affect water availability and supply, slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more challenging and lead to increased displacement.”

These factors hit low income groups in developing nations the hardest, perpetuating inequities.

And as these trends stand “among many other development impacts,” discussions over climate change constitute a wide range of topics. All in all, climate change perpetuates conditions that make Sustainable Development Goals one, two, three, six, eight, ten and fourteen seem like far out targets.

This is the case as climate change worsens conditions that impede growth and productivity in many of the world’s top industries and economies. Increases in sporadic and dangerous weather patterns, drought, water scarcity and natural disasters are largely responsible for impacting the Sustainable Development Goals.

These conditions especially undermine water availability, harming agricultural production, health, hunger and economic expansion.

This begs the question: how can the international community redirect climate change from a source of regression to one of progress? For the United Nations, the answer is simple: “by addressing climate change, we can build a sustainable world for everyone. But we need to act now.”

When it comes to progress for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, “often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another,” explains the UNDP. A sweeping set of factors — including scaling up the world’s adaptation, development and mitigation strategies to better prepare for and against climate change — brings a range of benefits, explains the United Nations.

The Sustainable Development Goals themselves are working to ensure success. Goal number 13, aimed to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts,” is at the forefront of efforts. Many other Sustainable Development Goals aim to protect the earth; these “have critical interlinkages with other goals, including eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth,” explains the United Nations.

Large scale implementation of green technology, especially in dominant industries, businesses and governments, can limit environmental degradation while promoting sustainable growth. The United Nations emphasizes that a world of “affordable, scalable solutions” for ending climate change are readily available for implementation.

However, seeing success will be impossible “if countries cannot work together to effectively to limit global warming and manage the consequences of climate change.”

The need for changing the relationship between climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals has already made a deep impact on the international community. The Paris Climate Agreement is a landmark for progress —  signed in 2016 by 195 countries, it plans to drastically reduce harmful environmental impact and better prepare for worsening climate stressors.

And this is tied to growth: the United Nations emphasizes that implementing the Paris targets is “essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

A Global Call to Action

Action is taking place around the globe. Many of the world’s top polluters — namely China and India — are taking drastic climate action, set to overachieve their Paris targets. Other countries, especially developing and climate-vulnerable ones, are taking a similar stance to fighting climate change. Spurring more bodies with agency into climate action encourages progress in the right direction.

Protecting the earth does more than break down barriers between climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals — if fuels economic expansion and sustains growth in many industries and economies, especially in developing nations. Climate action is good for business — the U.N. emphasizes that it “will lead to more jobs, greater prosperity, and better lives.”

Ending poverty, hunger and other preventable inequities included in the Sustainable Development Goals constitute many of the greatest targets in recent decades; they also sustain a synergistic relationship with ending climate change.

Bringing new light to climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals can make 2030 into a year of celebration — widening the road ahead for a stronger, sustainably driven world.

Cleo Krejci
Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Cleo Krejci

Cleo writes for The Borgen Project from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her academic interests include English and journalism, Spanish, art and creative writing. Cleo hopes to become a creative nonfiction writer.

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