Success to agree on climate goals paramount for sustainable development goals

SDGFighting against climate change and fighting for sustainable development are two sides of the same coin – one will not prosper without the other. It must be made clear to world leaders shaping the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that without an ambitious climate goal, the post-2015 sustainable development agenda cannot reap success.

Climate change and sustainable development are two global concerns deeply interlinked. While climate change influences all aspects of living conditions, a country’s sustainable development priorities build capacity to effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change. Regardless of this relationship, these two issues will be largely discussed within two different frameworks this year which will set the path for the post-2015 agenda – adopting the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the new climate treaty under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In September, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which the world has pursued for the past 15 years will be replaced with a set of SDGs. The post-2015 global development framework is aiming at shaping new pathways towards eradicating poverty, improving economic and social well-being while protecting the environment. The latter is currently endorsed by a draft goal “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, while acknowledging that the UNFCCC is still the primary forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

This exposes the poor inter-linkage between the future sustainable development agenda and the UNFCCC process. The COP21 conference is set to deliver a legally binding and universal agreement on climate this December, just a couple of months after pinning down SDGs. The course of the two parallel processes creates confusion among some countries on how (or whether really necessary) to fit climate within the new post-2015 development process.

It is key for the stakeholders in the process to recognize that without addressing climate change there can be no development. If we fail to embed it across the SDGs, we are purporting that climate change does not in fact challenge countries’ development. Moreover, the climate treaty agreed under the UNFCCC framework will only enter into force after 2020, therefore it is vital that ambitious action to tackle climate challenges begins with the post 2015 process.

For this reasons, world leaders need to see the big picture and bulk out the current draft on SDGs to include a stronger wording on fighting climate change. Respectively, the new SDGs must also include a standalone goal on tackling climate change, which does not only urge governments to carry out potent actions towards low carbon and climate resilient development, but also seek out benefits in other SDGs. This presents the post 2015 world with an all-embracing and systematic opportunity to bring climate change in line with sustainable development.

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