New parliamentary report authored by SSRP calls for closer alignment of climate and development goals

University of Sussex

The front cover of the APPG report with a bright circle of dots of different colours as its logo

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on UN Global Goals today warns that global leaders must urgently align action on climate change and tackling poverty and other development goals to avoid falling further behind on delivering both the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report is addressed to delegates from around the world who will be attending COP26 in Glasgow next month.

The report, written by academics at the Sussex Sustainable Research Programme (SSRP) at the University of Sussex, states that the enormous costs of the Covid-19 pandemic mean that it is going to be harder to reach climate targets and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unless urgent action is taken.

An online event is taking place today [Monday 18 October] to launch the event with SSRP Director Professor Joseph Alcamo and Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Sussex, among the speakers alongside His Excellency Mr. Antonio Jose Ardila, Colombian Ambassador to the UK, and Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation.

Professor Joseph Alcamo, co-author of the report, and Director of the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme at the University of Sussex, said: “The main message of the report is that the world is slipping behind on key targets to protect the climate and achieving sustainable development, but we have a better chance to catch up if we align the climate and SDG agendas. In view of that, the report provides evidence of dozens of policies that advance both climate goals and other Sustainable Development Goals.”

The report claims, that if scaled up and applied widely, these policies can efficiently help achieve many climate goals and SDGs and save resources for doing more. It calls on national governments, businesses and NGOs to consider implementing these policies as appropriate to their circumstances. But the report also urges policymakers to ensure that these policies are as equitable and just as they are efficient.

Co-author of the report, Ruth Segal, Research Fellow at the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme at the University of Sussex, said: “Climate action must be consistent with the SDGs, leaving no-one behind. Since we know that the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect poor communities, we must ensure that climate actions have a positive impact on poor people and help advance the SDGs. The report provides guidelines on how to ensure proposed policies are implemented equitably and justly.”

The report presents a long catalogue of policies that advance both climate goals and other SDGs drawn from the research literature, from country climate action reports, and from a Parliamentary Inquiry on the subject. The lengthy catalogue includes replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, constructing green buildings, reducing post-harvest losses and consumer food waste, and decarbonising urban transport. The report points out that, first of all, the list is very long, and second, that there is substantial evidence that they can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and/or boost adaptation to climate change, as well as advance various sustainable development goals at the same time.

The report claims that these joint “climate-SDG policies” could potentially avoid a duplication of efforts within government and other organisations and “enable government departments to use their resources more effectively, and free up resources for further actions.”

But the report points out that realising these efficiencies will “require a high level of ‘policy coherence’ in government”. To achieve this, the report recommends the establishment of national commissions or cross-department working groups. It further recommends the development of national action plans to harmonise strategies for achieving SDGs and climate action. It recommends greater coordination of national reporting systems on the SDGs and climate goals to encourage coherence between the two agendas. The report suggests that efforts to coordinate climate goals and SDGs nationally can build on experience in several countries in coordinating policies for different SDGs.

It further recommends that national governments “adequately finance actions to advance climate goals and SDGs, ensuring joint priorities are reflected in ministerial budgets.”

The report goes on to recommend that national “Covid-Recovery Packages include policies and measures that simultaneously advance both climate goals and SDGs, focusing particularly on reversing the unequal impacts of both Covid and climate change on the most vulnerable communities.”

Theo Clarke MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on UN Global Goals, said: “In the last few years, we have seen more and more scenes of climate-related events including flooding in my own constituency in Stafford. At the same time, around the world millions have had their lives disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, pushing back progress on the SDGs. We have a very short window to urgently get back on track and align both these critical agendas if we are to create a healthy, sustainable future for generations to come, both here in the UK and around the world.”

The report also recommends that the UN establish “a virtual platform and organise activities to share experience and learning between countries on policies and measures that deliver climate goals within the framework of the SDGs.”

But the report cautions that “coordinated climate-SDG policies are not necessarily equitable policies” and presents many examples of climate and development interventions that have led to inequities against poor and indigenous people including coastal protection projects in South Asia, vegetation restoration efforts in Africa, and dam projects in Central America.

Lord McConnell, Co-chair of the APPG on Global Goals said: “The urgent action required to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions must not make our world more unequal. So we need governments to combine their strategies for climate action with their targets for leaving no-one behind. Governments, businesses and communities working together in the same direction can create truly sustainable development.”

As a safeguard against policies having negative side effects, the report recommends a set of 21 guidelines for “policymakers and stakeholders to help them incorporate justice and equity considerations into joint climate-SDG policies and measures”. These include assessing “potential negative impacts on other SDGs and climate goals” and evaluating the “impact [of policies] on vulnerable and marginalised groups.” The guidelines amount to a stress test of proposed policies to deter them from causing inequities.

The report argues that these guidelines are a key to fair and just interventions that can help us get back on track to meeting global goals. With these guidelines we can develop joint policies “that efficiently and equitably advance both climate goals and the SDGs and save resources so that more can be done.”

The report draws on evidence from the research literature, from a public parliamentary inquiry in July-August, and from a July international symposium on “Evidence for Action” organised by the University of Sussex with partner organisations from 7 low and medium income countries that drew participants from 40 countries.

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