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The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are practically twins: both were adopted in 2015. Like most twins, these two pacts are closely linked, since climate mitigation and adaptation are essential to eradicate poverty and share prosperity, two central aspects of the 2030 Agenda. The Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be on the agenda this week and next in New York at the UN High-Level Political Forum (HPLF). Sustainable Development Goal 13 focuses on tackling climate change, and climate action is also mentioned in targets under other goals, whether on ending hunger or building resilient infrastructure. WRI’s analysis finds that a wide range of actions that countries put forward in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – both for mitigation and adaptation – align with at least 154 of the 169 SDG targets, demonstrating an enormous potential for mutually supportive implementation with the SDGs.

When we examined 44 countries’ voluntary national reviews (VNRs) of their progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda, we found that two-thirds make some reference to climate change. This shows that most countries are recognizing the linkages between the two agendas. These 44 VNRs will be presented next week during the ministerial segment of the Forum, adding to the 22 VNRs presented last year.

How Well Do Countries Show Commitment to Climate Action in Context of Sustainable Development?

Many VNRs focus on the six goals out of the 17 SDGs that are slated for discussion:

  • SDG 1: eradicate poverty
  • SDG 2: eliminate hunger
  • SDG 3: enable healthy lives
  • SDG 5: bring about gender equality
  • SDG 9: encourage sustainable industry, infrastructure, and innovation
  • SDG 14: preserve coastal and marine resources and ecosystems

This is in addition to SDG 17, which focuses on global partnerships to support all the goals.

While two-thirds of this year’s VNRs make the link between climate change and the broader SDGs and 2030 Agenda, around half explicitly refer to climate plans (including NDCs) as integral elements of their strategies for achieving the SDGs.

Among the countries that link climate action with the quest for sustainable development, the following examples are noteworthy:

  • India states that its NDC forms a significant part of its SDG strategy, and refers to climate adaptation efforts in agriculture.

  • Bangladesh, which is extremely vulnerable to climate impacts, refers in several places to the need to adapt to climate change, notably in assessing prospects for attaining SDG 1 on poverty eradication and SDG 2 on food security.

  • Nigeria speaks of adverse impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity.

  • Ethiopia flags climate change as a major contributor to its severe drought and, together with Zimbabwe, sees climate-resilient agriculture as essential to its people’s well-being.

  • Chile, Iran, Jordan, Kenya and the Maldives say their national climate change action plans offer important support for implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

  • Portugal mentions the Paris Agreement as part of the EU approach to the 2030 Agenda.

  • Chile and Malaysia refer to their green growth strategies as frameworks for achieving the SDGs.

  • Belgium makes it a priority to embed climate policy in the broader sustainable development context, including coherence between climate and human rights, as called for in the Paris Agreement.

  • Azerbaijan mentions that building inclusive and resilient growth and ensuring sustainable development would require moving from oil based to more diversified economy.

  • Several countries including Bangladesh, Brazil, Malaysia, the Maldives and Sweden link climate change and SDG 14 on oceans, marine and coastal resources. Brazil cites its National Adaptation Plan, which calls for promoting adaptation to the effects of climate change in coastal and marine areas. Sweden cites sustainable energy and climate resilient development as essential for achieving healthy oceans.

Governments increasingly recognize that climate action and sustainable development are inextricably linked – that achieving the SDGs will not be possible without simultaneous progress in tackling climate change. WRI analysis points to important synergies between the NDCs and SDGs. Governments have a chance to seize the opportunities offered by joined-up implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement.

Looking ahead, we anticipate a more systematic consideration of the linkages between climate action and SDGs in national policymaking and in the VNRs presented to the HLPF in 2018 and 2019. Next year’s Forum offers a good opportunity to highlight the co-benefits from tackling climate change for other goals and vice versa. Among the SDGs under review next year are SDG 7 on sustainable energy for all, SDG 11 on sustainable cities and SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production. All three offer opportunities to highlight policies and actions which advance these goals and climate action simultaneously: from cleaning up urban air through switching from dirty fuels, to providing affordable rural energy access through decentralized renewable energy, to reducing carbon footprints through more responsible consumption decisions.