SDGs? Whazit? And what’s climate got to do with it?

7 June 2014

In a land far far away, a bunch of busy bees are currently negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This brainchild of the Rio+20 Summit should provide for a successor to the MDGs, and is supposed to end poverty and bring on sustainable development. Since March last year, the members of the Open Working Group on SDGs have been working on an inspirational, aspirational and otherwise brilliant ‘To Do List’ (the goals) for international development over the next 15 years. Their recommendations are due to be delivered to the UN General Assembly by September 2014. The next round of negotiations starts on 16 June.

What will end up on the goals list, depends on a battle that is yet to come. There are already some things in place like gender, health, education, food and agriculture, energy and water. There’s also some new kids on the block too, like climate change, ecosystems, forests and cities. Amongst all of these, the climate change goal is having the hardest time staying alive. At the moment the working group’s report’s zero draft has it on life support but a number of powerful countries are trying hard to pull the plug. These murderous intentions are only being kept at bay by a handful of brave countries and groups, like the LDCs, some island states, Bangladesh and Guatemala. Far too many others are just watching the battle from the sidelines.

It’s time to do some soul searching on why a climate goal is worth having.

Is it because addressing climate change is a pre-requisite to ending poverty and achieving sustainable development? Or because the IPCC has hammered it home, time and time again, that climate change disproportionately affects the poorest and that action cannot wait another minute? Or because some leaders agree that climate change is the greatest threat to development? Heads of States will find it hard to credibly justify the SDGs in September 2015 without climate change goals while academia, civil society and even the private sector (and of course, ECO too!) realise that this is the most pressing challenge of our generation .

Now that we get that, what’s that got that to do with the UNFCCC?

A set of climate-blind SDGs agreed in September 2015 wouldn’t set a nice stage for an ambitious climate agreement a few weeks later in Paris would it? Since the SDGs cover areas like energy, agriculture, water, forests, oceans, cities and economic growth, they can, and will, massively contribute to both mitigation and adaptation action. If you strive for low-carbon and climate-resilient DEVELOPMENT, you might throw the occasional side glance at those DEVELOPMENT goals.

Both processes are currently looking at the same pots for money and they intersect during implementation where (hopefully!) the same national strategies will guide climate and development action.

For ECO, it seems pretty straightforward that climate change must be strongly and credibly reflected in the SDGs and we want to encourage the Bonn clique to connect with their mates in New York – go!

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