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  • Victoria Cornelio

The UN Sustainable Development Goals, Explained

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

In 2015, the United Nations Member States adopted the most ambitious international agenda ever developed. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a series of milestones that all countries have agreed to work towards by 2030, to tackle deprivation, health, education, and encourage economic growth while preserving our ecosystems. And the best part? They all care about implementing solutions that also address climate change, either by mitigating or adapting to its effects.

Let's explore the goals and their effects on the climate crisis:

The UN Member States agree to implement sustainable agricultural practices to ensure food security while protecting the soil and its nutrients. This goal is supported by Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production, which focuses on maintaining a sustainable supply chain by correctly managing our natural resources. These goals also work towards Goal 15 – Life on Land, which calls for urgent actions to reduce loss of natural habitats.

These goals work hand-in-hand to protect and restore water-related ecosystems, which can also provide access to clean water to all communities regardless of their location.

It is believed that by 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, and together with Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, making smart cities and ensuring energy productivity will help lower CO2 emissions and pollution in urban areas. These goals are possible when advancements are made towards achieving Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure which aims to create sustainable industries, using innovation to install renewable energy sources and minimise waste constructions.

Taking concrete steps to integrate mitigation and adaptation solutions in every region affected by climate change is vital for helping communities develop while also reducing the risks of global warming.

The essence of the SDGs is a call to action to all member states to encourage cooperation achieve these milestones by enhancing North-South cooperation and supporting national plans.

10 out of the 17 SDGs are directly linked to the climate crisis, while the rest contribute to education and the enhancement of worldwide socioeconomic structures, factors that also support the battle against climate change and its effects.

So...will we make it by 2030?

Not all countries are ready to take the same steps, while others do not have the means to implement some of the targets. For example, some developing countries do not have the economic resources for adopting renewable energy sources. Then let the Global North help, right? It is not that easy, because then the receiving country (most likely from the South) will become dependent, replicating the colonial economic model.

The great thing about the SDGs is that they tackle a series of issues, and while working on one, a country may be solving another. Nonetheless, sometimes countries need to prioritise some goals over others. For example, the need for larger urban areas may result in the loss of more forests, or water security may be threatened by the implementation of hydroelectric plants as an alternative energy source.

Member states are sovereign and therefore free to implement these goals as they see fit, which is why when it comes to holding countries accountable for their progress and performance, it can be a challenge to measure who is doing better. Is the country winning the SDGs’ race the one that has made the most progress yet damaged the environment in the process, or the one prioritising marine life while the number of communities living in extreme poverty seems to stay the same?

The SDGs are the perfect blueprint to pave the future we dream of, but a plan that looks pretty on paper has resulted challenging to implement. The 2020 report on the progress of the SDGs presented optimistic developments, and yet a clear disclaimer that the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic has been a setback, while also making a call to action that some processes need acceleration, such as is the case of Goal 6, 7 and most importantly, 13 – Climate Action.

Remember, you are a key part of this roadmap, and your actions can help us advance. For inspiration, visit the entrepreneurial blog, B1G1 for ideas on how to contribute to the completion of the SDGs.

For more resources on sustainable living, head to our dedicated Climate Crisis section.

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