Climate Action and the Sustainable Development Goals

At the launch of ICAT, respondents to our stakeholder survey indicated a need for guidance on sustainable development. Now, as we begin country missions, partners are consistently interested in the Sustainable Development Guidance portion of our series of guidance. This enhanced interest comes as no surprise. Climate action and sustainable development are linked global and national challenges. Understanding those linkages can help policymakers recognize and report on the various impacts of existing policies, as well as design new ones with linked benefits in mind.

Most countries reporting on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement are also working towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed on by the UN. Meeting targets for both requires substantial time, investment, infrastructure and reporting. Fortunately, the activities needed to achieve both sets of targets are well-aligned. Climate targets are embedded in the SDGs as goal 13. The SDGs are also reflected in the Paris Agreement. The UNFCCC requires the Parties to cooperate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy, transport, industry, agriculture, and forestry sectors, all of which correspond to SDGs (SDG 7, 11, 9, 2 and 15, respectively).

Because of the alignment between NDCs and SDGs, mitigation policies can contribute to SDGs and action on SDGs can contribute to mitigation. However, accounting for and tracking synergies and trade-offs can become complicated. Countries’ climate plans may not always fully recognize or utilize the opportunities provided by the linkages. The ICAT Sustainable Development Guidance aims to support country practitioners to identify and promote synergies in monitoring and reporting on their policies.

Understanding the synergies between emissions contributions and other environmental, social and economic targets enhances the rationale for integrated reporting, because a single policy can achieve multiple benefits. For instance, a policy that incentivises solar energy can contribute to progress on both NDCs and SDGs. Solar energy not only leads to quantifiable emissions reductions, but can also increase energy access and provide cost savings for households, reducing inequalities (SDG 10) and ameliorating poverty (SDG 1). Solar energy also contributes to the goals of affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9) and sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11). By accounting for social and climate targets together, practitioners can determine whether policies and actions are having desired effects across metrics. Practitioners can even design policies with multiple objectives in mind, deploying a holistic, integrated national strategy for sustainable development, mitigation and adaptation.

The task of integrated accounting for the sustainable development and carbon benefits of policies is complex, but the benefits of doing so make it worth the effort. With ICAT guidance and in-country support, ICAT works to help countries navigate that complexity to achieve the positive social, economic and environmental outcomes they seek.