Unless action on climate change and tackling poverty are urgently aligned, the world risks missing important 2030 targets
Theo Clarke MP for Stafford and Lord Jack McConnell, Co-Chairs of the APPG on the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development
The scenes of devastation are becoming ever more apparent on our TV screens - scorching heat in Canada, forest fires in the US and flooding across Europe including at home in Staffordshire. At the launch of the UK’s presidency of COP26 in February 2020, the Prime Minister stated that it was critical for 2020 to be a defining year of action on tackling climate change and protecting the natural world. Since then, the urgency of this task has only increased.
At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed millions into poverty, disrupted children’s education, and put pressure on already weak health systems, exacerbating the very problems the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were designed to address. This pandemic has not only claimed the lives of millions of our loved ones, but it has also made it harder for the world to meet the transformative potential of the SDGs: from achieving gender equality and ending hunger to providing quality education for all.
It is essential for us to build back better, but we are running out of time - the world urgently needs to get back on track if we are to create a healthy, sustainable future for generations to come.
The pandemic has shown how universal and interconnected the SDGs are both at home and abroad, and how critical it is for us to increase action towards achieving them, delivering on the commitment to leave no one behind by 2030.
We do not have to choose between tackling the climate crisis and advancing other critical agendas: we can do both. As Global Britain, we should look to implement one plan that works for both people and planet, and the SDGs provide us with the perfect framework for this.
Change is both needed and possible. As outlined in the latest report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development which we co-chair, many countries are already pursuing policies and measures that advance climate goals and other urgent priorities. This isn’t just morally right, it also makes economic sense. Achieving multiple goals through single actions avoids a duplication of efforts, and enables governments, businesses and civil society organisations to use their resources more effectively, freeing up funds for further action.
The UK has a crucial leadership role to play next month as it hosts the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, and we hope that the UK will show strong leadership to both the public and private sectors of the need to tackle climate change. But the government must ensure that this is done alongside advancing development priorities.
There is a short window for the global community to create a more sustainable, inclusive, equitable and resilient world for all – especially the most marginalised and excluded people. As COP President, Alok Sharma, said in May 2021, “This is our last hope … our best chance of building a brighter future.” Every country should leave COP26 with a firm commitment to one national strategy which works towards climate and development goals and as Global Britain, it is up to us to lead.