Everyone’s been talking about the Sustainable Development Goals for some time, but at the halfway point between their establishment in 2015 and their aspirational end date of 2030, what progress has been made towards achieving them? Not enough according to a new report from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which says that progress has been static on the SDGs for the past three years. The period 2015 to 2019 saw some progress on the goals but the pandemic years and then the outbreak of war in Ukraine is blamed for the stalling of improvements more recently. The SDSN report says that at current progress none of the SDGs will be achieved by 2030, and that we are only on track for around 20% of the goals’ underlying targets to be met.
While the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have been blamed, at least in part, for the slow progress since 2019, the report also points out that both challenges have demonstrated the capability of high-income countries to mobilise vast resources quickly. However, no G20 country currently has sufficient government level commitment and policy in place to meet the Paris Agreement objectives.
Agenda disputes dog Bonn climate talks
Delegates at the UN climate conference in Bonn, which concluded on 16th June and is the precursor to the COP28 meeting in the United Arab Emirates in November, were also generally frustrated at the lack of progress. For much of the two-week meeting, there were disputes over agenda items, particularly the mitigation work programme that was agreed at the COP27 meeting in Glasgow and which has the purpose of speeding up cuts in emissions in the period up to 2030.
There was no agreement on where would host the Santiago network on loss and damage – though there was some progress on operationalising how to help vulnerable communities deal with climate change impacts. There were further talks on establishing a fund for loss and damage, and the discussions will continue at COP28.
Developing world energy funding
North to south investment is a common theme. A new report from the International Energy Agency and the International Finance Corporation says that the funds invested in clean energy in developing economies needs to triple to $2.8tn in the next ten years. The investment is what is necessary to meet UN targets on access to green and affordable energy while aligning with the Paris climate change agreement’s goals. The report calls for significantly greater private sector finance, and recommends that public sector funds are best invested via a blended finance approach to help remove some of the risks that are currently the cause of private sector reluctance to invest.
In addition, funds will need to be invested to kick-start technology that is currently not cost-competitive in many parts of the world, including large scale energy storage projects and green hydrogen. The report also highlights the continued fossil fuel subsidies that exist around the world that distort energy supply markets.
Aspiration not enough for JBS
JBS, the world’s largest meat-packing business, has had to pull some advertising in the US over claims of greenwashing. The company had appealed to the US advertising watchdog that including detail of its aspirational targets of achieving a net zero position by 2040 was acceptable following a previous decision from the US National Advertising Division that the aspirations were confusing for consumers as there was no guarantee they would be achieved as the company is only in the exploratory phase of its efforts.
The appeal decision noted that a reasonable consumer would interpret JBS’s claims to mean that the company is already acting towards specific objectives and measurable outcomes that would enable its operations to have net zero impact by 2040. JBS disagrees with the findings but has pulled advertising featuring the aspirations.