If the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be achieved by the 2030 target, the risks posed by human-induced climate change must be understood and addressed.
The World Meteorological Organization has published a new report on Climate Indicators and Sustainable Development: Demonstrating the Interconnections. Its release coincides with the United Nations General Assembly annual session and the opening on 22 September of the SDG Action Zone, which is dedicated to accelerating action on the SDGs.
The aim of the WMO report is to demonstrate the connections between the global climate and the SDGs, which go far beyond SDG 13 for climate action. It also champions the need for greater international collaboration, which is essential for achieving the SDGs, and for limiting global warming to less than 2 °C or even 1.5 °C by the end of this century
The report is accompanied by a story map. It highlights seven climate indicators whose impacts span the SDGs:
Carbon dioxide concentration
Ocean heat content
Glacier mass balance
“In the face of ongoing climate change, poverty, inequality and environmental degradation, understanding the connections between climate and international development is a matter of urgency,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“Increasing temperatures will result in global and regional changes, leading to shifts in rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons. The intensification of El Nino events is also generating more droughts and floods,” he said.
“By unpacking the interconnections between the WMO climate indicators and the SDGs through clear visual maps, this report aims to contribute to the sustainable development agenda and to inspire leaders to take bolder climate action,” said Prof. Taalas.
The report examines the implications of the latest data and scientific research on the state of the global climate for sustainable development, to highlight how our climate is already changing and how the changes will impede the achievement of the SDGs.
Because CO2 concentration drives global climate change, it is indirectly responsible for risks related to the other climate indicators and nearly every single SDG. Therefore, reducing carbon emissions is one of the most effective and necessary climate-related actions for achieving the SDGs, the report stresses.
The levels of confidence behind each risk identified in the report vary; there is still much research to be done to address remaining scientific uncertainties. Therefore, this report should be considered a living document, to be frequently updated with the most up-to-date climate data and research.
WMO plans to compile exemplars on the interconnection between climate indicators and SDGs based on real data in 2021. The methodology in this report will be used to closely monitor the risks posed by the worsening of these indicators on achieving the SDGs.
Only 13 of the 17 SDGs are highlighted in the report. Nevertheless, the remaining four have a role to play: Gender equality (SDG 5) is a critical component of many of the highlighted risks, particularly relating to health, food security and water scarcity. Improved education (SDG 4), global partnerships (SDG 17) and sustainable consumption (SDG 12) can form part of the solution, mitigating the risks posed by anthropogenic climate change or helping to stop it entirely.
Understanding the complexities of climate change and international development is an ongoing challenge.
“As the international community becomes increasingly aware of the interconnections between climate change and sustainable development, more interdisciplinary partnerships for change can happen, resulting in more sustainable behaviour and consumption.
It is hoped that this report can serve as a basis for more interdisciplinary research and collaboration, improved policy development and stronger commitment to both the SDGs and climate action. Our future depends on it,” concludes the report.
Editor: Liu Shuqiao