The Sustainable Development Goals are known as the world’s blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The 17 goals are all interconnected, and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that they are all achieved by 2030.
Five years into this ambitious undertaking, the Decade of Action on the Sustainable Development Goals signals a renewed commitment by the international community to accelerate action towards reaching the global goals.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) contributes to the Decade in various ways:
- The environment underlies each of the 17 goals – from eliminating hunger to reducing inequalities to building sustainable communities around the world. UNEP works with peers around the UN System to help build countries’ capacities to track their progress towards the goals, aiming to ensure that the environment is integrated into all aspects of sustainable development.
- UNEP tracks progress on the goals through resources such as the World Environment Situation Room, a dynamic knowledge platform designed to collect, process and share the world’s best environmental science and research, as well as the mass of new data from satellites, drones and citizen science. The platform includes critical tools to review progress towards the achievement of the goals.
- UNEP’s Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment established a working group on data, analytics and artificial intelligence in March 2018. Through this group, UNEP has been working with a wide range of partners to evaluate how to better use data for monitoring the environment, including the goals. UNEP is also working with the global citizen science community to explore opportunities to better use new data to build a Digital Ecosystem for the Environment.
- Through regular Foresight Briefs and an annual Frontiers report, UNEP identifies the most important emerging issues for the global environment, including those related to the implementation of the goals.
- The Sustainable Development Goals Policy Briefs highlight hotspots of environmental change. The evidence provided builds on the scientific data and information hosted on the World Environment Situation Room and is complemented by stories from the regions.
- UNEP provides technical guidance and support for environmental governance, developing coherent laws and policies and guiding countries in effectively implementing them. One example is the work on national biodiversity strategic action plans.
- With 70 per cent of the world’s forests facing the threat of degradation, UNEP is helping to spearhead the call, alongside United Nations agencies and programmes, for all to focus on nature-positive agriculture; clean up supply chains; consume sustainably; partner with private sector; and put a price on carbon.
- Nature-based solutions offer some of the best ways to achieve human well-being, address climate change and protect the planet. UNEP and partners are also leading the Decade on Ecosystems Restoration 2021–2030. The Decade aims to gather the science and best practices on ecosystems restoration and encourage action.
- UNEP brings scientists and policymakers together every couple of years for the United Nations Environment Assembly. The theme for the next Assembly, slated for February 2021 is Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
We have 10 years to transform our world. Business as usual cannot and will not be business for tomorrow if we want to achieve the Goals.
Leading in advocacy
UNEP and partners run international communications campaigns in support of the goals: Wild for Life, Breathelife and Clean Seas. UNEP also works with a dedicated team of Goodwill Ambassadors, Heroes and Patrons to spread the word about the importance of conserving and caring for the environment. UNEP also runs Champions of the Earth, an environmental awards programme to recognize ground-breaking environmental initiatives and achievements, and the people behind them.
What is UNEP doing to accelerate solutions?
One recent example is that UNEP and the Permanent Mission of Germany launched Global Opportunities for Sustainable Development Goals (GO4SDGs) at the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York in September 2019 to boost efforts and solutions for the goals. It will reach policymakers, small-to-medium-size enterprises and youth. The broad demographic range aims to raise ambition for building inclusive and sustainable economies at all levels.
GO4SDGs will build on UNEP’s large body of scientific knowledge and disseminate it through existing partnerships and programmes such as the One Planet Network, the Partnership for Action on Green Economy, the Green Growth Knowledge Partnership, the International Trade Union Confederation’s Just Transition Centre and the UNEP Finance Initiative, ensuring a tailor-made and regional approach in addressing the differing needs in each global region. The initiative will also develop partnerships with organizations that work directly with businesses and the private sector to accelerate action, including the World Economic Forum.
The Measures Database released by UNEP and the Green Growth Knowledge Partnership shows a 106 per cent increase in green finance measures globally since 2015. We demonstrated impressive progress in the United Nations-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, where two months after 12 of the world’s largest pension funds and insurers committed to decarbonize their investments by 2050, total assets under management have doubled to almost US$3.9 trillion.