SDG #13 Ensuring Long-Lasting Change
By Shani Asokan Ceylon Today Features
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals that were agreed upon by all United Nations (UN) Member States at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 13 is about climate action. The official wording of the goal is to ‘take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’. Climate change affects every single country across the globe. It disrupts national economies and affects lives, causing both micro- and macro-level impacts across continents. Weather patterns are changing, the planet is warming, and sea levels are rising; natural disasters are becoming more severe.
The Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 aimed to strengthen the global response to climate change by keeping global temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The agreement was meant to strengthen countries’ abilities to deal with the impacts of climate change, through financing green initiatives, developing new technology and enhancing a capacity building framework across the globe. However, in recent years, this agreement has proved insufficient to deal with the climate crisis and meet 2030 goals.
Goal 13 progress
As of 2021, the Paris Agreement has been signed by 191 countries. By 2018, 168 countries had communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the United Nations framework convention on Climate Change Secretariat. In the same year, 10 developing countries also submitted their national plans for adaptation and response to climate change. Developed countries also made a commitment to jointly mobilize US$100 million annually for climate change mitigation actions. This has been central to the Paris Accords, and is a symbol of trust amongst all parties. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, average global temperature increased by 0.85 degrees Celsius from 1880 to 2012. This may not seem like a lot, so to put things in perspective, for each one degree increase, grain yields fall by about five per cent.
This was evident between the years 1981 and 2002 when yields of grain crops like maize and wheat fell by 40 megatons per year due to a warmer climate. Between 1901 and 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19cm as ice in the glaciers melted and oceans expanded due to the warming of the planet. The Arctic sea’s ice has been shrinking consistently since 1979, with a little over one km2 loss every decade. Considering current rates of on-going emissions of greenhouse gases, projections show that it is likely global temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This means that the oceans will continue to grow warmer and the ice will continue to melt.
Since 1990, global emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by almost 50 per cent. In the last two decades, emissions grew far more quickly than the decades before. However, a chance still remains to change the trajectory. This includes technological and institutional changes to greener initiatives.
Goal 13 targets
The main objective of Goal 13 is to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters in all countries. This means, ensuring that climate change measures and protocols are integrated into all national policies, strategies and planning. To make climate action more successful, countries must improve education, awareness and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation and adaptation. According to Goal 13, developed countries must implement the commitment made to the UN framework convention on Climate Change to jointly mobilise US$100 million a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions.
Overall, it aims to promote mechanisms for capacity building for effective climate change mitigation and related planning. It also aims to promote mechanisms for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing states, with a focus on vulnerable groups such as women, children and indigenous communities.
Climate action and the global pandemic
Although 2020 saw a drop in greenhouse gas emissions due to travel bans and economic slowdowns, this was only temporary. These emissions are likely to pick up as countries start to reopen and the world returns to a sense of normalcy. As countries move towards rebuilding economies, these strategies must include ways that are green, clean, healthy and safe. The new plans to restart global economies must be more resilient.
The current pandemic and global crisis has given us an opportunity for a profound and systemic shift towards a sustainable economy that safeguards both people and the planet. Hence, a transition towards decarbonisation of all aspects of the economy, with green jobs and sustainable growth is paramount. Companies and states must invest in sustainable solutions; which means fossil fuel subsidies must end and polluters must pay for their pollution. Above all, climate risks must be confronted and dealt with in a timely manner.
These changes must be long term and systemic. Governments have already spent time creating national plans of action to meet the 2030 agenda. These plans must be re-evaluated to include the effects of COVID-19, and the lessons we have learned in the past year. Plans for economic growth must include plans to be more sustainable and resilient. The year 2021 is where we start if we want to save our planet. Join us next week for a discussion of Goal 14!