UN report: climate change a threat to the Sustainable Development Goals

UN report: climate change a threat to the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN published its annual report on the progress made in implementing the 2030 Agenda, in connection with the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2019).

Over the past decades, the world has taken rapid steps in certain Sustainable Development Goals, such as in reducing extreme poverty and hunger. However, the message of the follow-up report is that this progress may slow down or take a turn in the wrong direction unless more ambitious measures are taken to combat climate change and inequality. This is the fourth progress report since the countries of the world adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

According to the report, among the areas where progress has been made is health: the under-5 mortality rate fell from 9.8 million to 5.4 million between 2000 and 2017. Thanks to vaccinations, during the same period there was an 80 per cent drop in measles deaths. Access to energy has improved as well: now nine out of ten people worldwide have access to electricity.

The share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty decreased from 36 per cent in 1990 to less than 9 per cent in 2018. This means that significant progress has been made, but now the pace has slowed especially due to increased vulnerability caused by violent and extensive conflicts and natural disasters.

Swift change in the direction needed

The report warns about increasing equality, both among and within countries. The most vulnerable regions are found in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, and a vast majority of the poor live in rural areas. Inequality is also reflected in employment: it is more likely for the young to be unemployed than for the adults. We also still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality.

The trend is the most alarming in terms of the climate and environmental goals: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps growing and we have not been able to halt ocean acidification and decline in biodiversity. The report reminds about the significant impacts that climate change will have on the achievement of the other Sustainable Development Goals as it exacerbates inequality and leads to problems relating to food security, health and safety.

This is why in the foreword to the report the UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls for a deeper, faster and more ambitious response to achieve the necessary transformations. The Sustainable Development Goals 2019 report was published on Tuesday in connection with the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2019).