UN: Global nations to miss environment-related Sustainable Development Goals

A new report has found some environmental areas – such as biodiversity loss and climate change – has continued to deteriorate, despite progress in key environmental areas such as clean energy, sanitation and clean water, forest management and waste

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Countries across the globe are on course to miss environment-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as they are still living “unsustainably”.

That’s according to a new report issued by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which found some environmental areas – such as biodiversity loss and climate change – has continued to deteriorate, despite progress in key environmental areas such as clean energy, sanitation and clean water, forest management and waste.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets clear targets for a sustainable future, with internationally agreed goals in 17 areas, including climate action, clean energy, poverty, hunger, health and responsible consumption.

The report – which reviews data and information about the environmental aspects of each of the 17 SDGs and their progress around the world – flagged an increase of available data but with the newly available information, an increase in downward trend among most indicators when compared with a previous progress report in 2019.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity said: “We have still not embraced the rate of change necessary to come in line with the 2030 Agenda.

“The report makes it clear that we are falling short and in some cases, actually receding. The world cannot sustain our rate of use and abuse forever and it is imperative that we accept the changes in lifestyles and livelihoods necessary to achieve the 2030 goals.”

Environmental data published in the first report showed that out of 32% of indicators with data (30 indicators), 74% (22 indicators) followed a positive trend and 26% (eight indicators) indicated little change or a negative trend.

In the 2021 report, however, out of the 42% of indicators with data (39 indicators), 67% (26 indicators) followed a positive trend and 33% (13 indicators) showed little change or a negative trend.

It identified a gap in the diversity and use of environmental data and statistics to inform government policy and decision-making, particularly big environmental data produced by remote sensing and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, as well as data collected through environmental-economic accounting activities.

The report suggests many existing data products, statistics and indicators seem to be under-utilised and governments have failed to place an emphasis on that data when crafting policy.

It is, therefore, calling for improved data and indicators to understand how to ensure development progresses “within planetary boundaries”.

Jian Liu, Director of the Science Division at UNEP added: “Our comprehension of the environmental dimension of the SDGs is lagging.

“Our limited capacities to collect, disseminate and effectively use environmental data have hindered our holistic understanding of the environment and the effect on it of socio-economic factors – we hope this report will support countries as they strengthen action on the environmental dimensions with a view to meeting the 2030 Agenda.”

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