Experts map strategies to tackle climate, sustainable development crises
A groundbreaking report by a group of independent experts released last week, by the United Nations has outlined steps governments should take to maximise the impact of policies and actions by tackling the climate and sustainable development crises.
The report noted that, with some 56 per cent of the global population living in cities, expected to rise to 70 per cent by 2050, the drive for sustainable cities (Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 11) presents a major challenge and opportunity to advance climate action at the city level, especially in the Global South.
There are many examples of cities around the world where these synergies have brought significant benefits in sustainable transport, sustainable use of urban space, lower greenhouse gases, less air pollution and improved health.
The report called for greater institutional coordination and policy coherence across sectors and departments at the national level, to better integrate SDG and climate policy development and action.
It also recommended that the governance and policy frameworks for both the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda will need to be changed to align climate action with the SDGs.
The expert group suggested that country commitment and reporting mechanisms, such as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement and the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) undertaken under Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, should include synergistic targets or co-benefits.
The report also recommended that policymakers have stronger links with researchers studying climate and development, who could assess possible synergies. Addressing the significant disconnect between scientific evidence and applied policy action can ensure the best scientifically verified policies are agreed and carried out.
The group, co-led by Luis Gomez-Echeverri, Emeritus Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and Heide Hackmann, Director of Future Africa, University of Pretoria, was co-convened earlier this year by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the UN Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) to produce this report, the first of its kind.
According to the report, the factors blocking more synergistic actions revolve around knowledge gaps, political and institutional arrangements, and economic disruptions. In particular, the main barriers include lack of funding to analyse and finance more integrated policy actions; institutional rigidity that puts climate and development policy in separate silos; the dominance of top-down policy making; a general lack of data and indicators, and a lack of understanding about the value of synergies and the capacity to identify and implement them.
Among the examples cited, achieving universal electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 (SDG 7) would require a yearly investment of $27 billion under existing climate policies, but would require an additional $6 billion without climate policies.
“Maximising synergies between climate action and the SDGs has never been more critical,” said Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “We must get the SDGs on track and keep the goal of 1.5 degrees alive,” he said, also stressing that “an integrated approach that seeks to strengthen synergies between these two global agendas is critical to that end.”
“Achieving the SDGs and stabilizing our climate to build resilient societies are two sides of the same endeavour,” said Simon Stiell, UNFCCC Executive Secretary. “I am confident that the work of the Expert Group will spur additional efforts that can result in win-win outcomes for both climate action and the SDG agenda and transition us towards a just, equitable, and sustainable world.”