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Policy brief: Synergies conference bridges 2022 HLPF and UN Climate Change COP | SDG Knowledge Center


“Scaling up action on the synergies between climate action and the SDGs is needed more than ever.” This is one of the key messages from the Third Global Conference on Enhancing Synergies between the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aimed to broaden the evidence base on synergies and trade-offs between climate change and the SDGs to help raise ambition and accelerate progress on both agendas.

The third World Conference on Climate and Synergy of the SDGs was held at the midpoint of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, when multiple converging crises put all 17 goals in jeopardy. The impacts of climate change, including recent heat waves in Western Europe and North America, the COVID-19 pandemic, biodiversity loss and conflict in Ukraine and elsewhere, with negative repercussions on food security and world energy, challenge the international community to come up with complementary strategies to keep the 1.5°C temperature goal in reality and enable the achievement of global goals by 2030. However, recent data indicate that there has been a reversal of progress on a number of goals. Energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions peaked in 2021 and, based on current commitments, global emissions are projected to increase by almost 14% over the next decade, reinforcing the urgency of the UN Secretary-General’s calls to “turn the tide” and “save” the 2030 Agenda.

In this context, the conference background paper highlights uncertainties in energy, transport, industry, food and land use systems, and stresses that the interactions between mitigation climate change and SDGs 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality), 10 (reduced inequalities), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (partnerships for the goals) “could be clearer” . To inform discussions, the paper presents several options to strengthen the evidence base for synergistic action, such as identifying: ways to advance holistic integrated approaches that transcend space, systems and stakeholders; existing needs and opportunities to scale up capacity building, including youth empowerment; opportunities for greater sharing of experiences at all levels; options for improving integrated planning; and new partnerships for transformation.

The Third World Climate Conference and SDG Synergy provided a long-awaited opportunity for representatives from governments, the private sector, academia, civil society and the United Nations system to meet to discuss an agenda coordinated implementation “to advance climate action“. and the SDGs by tackling them together, in synergy. Organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UNFCCC, in partnership with the United Nations University (UNU) and the Institute for Global Environmental Studies (IGES), and hosted by the Japanese Ministry Environment, the meeting took place in a hybrid format at the UNU campus in Tokyo, Japan, from July 20-21, 2022.

Synergy Conference: The origins

With the adoption in 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, countries “have laid the foundations for coherent implementation of climate action and the goals sustainable development at all levels and in all sectors”, notes the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) in its summary report of the conference. While the Paris Agreement and SDG 13 are dedicated to climate action, the 2030 Agenda is integrated and indivisible in its coverage of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Recognizing that the coherent and synergistic implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement could lead to multiple mutual benefits, DESA and the UNFCCC Secretariat have convened the first global conference on enhancing synergies between the two agendas in 2019. The conference sought to identify specific examples to illustrate the potential of synergistic and interconnected approaches, analyze gaps and challenges, and offer recommendations to strengthen synergies, increase ambition, avoid duplication and maximize the co-benefits.

The success of the conference prompted the agencies to decide to make it an annual event; however, plans for a second in-person conference were derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, DESA and the UNFCCC, in cooperation with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), have launched an e-learning course on “Harnessing the synergies between climate and the SDGs” and co-hosted three webinars on:

  • Thinking ahead for a sustainable, just and resilient recovery;
  • Synergies for just transitions and economic recovery; and
  • Moving forward with climate and SDG synergies.

These outings, IN B reports, “outlined options for synergistic policy interventions across different sectors using an integrated nexus approach.”

Third Synergy Conference: a deep transformation is “necessary, possible and beneficial for all”

Organized at a critical moment in the implementation of multilateral commitments, the Third World Conference on Climate and SDG Synergy aimed to assess progress made over the past few years on synergistic action towards the temperature goal of 1 .5°C of the Paris Agreement while putting the world back on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030, and to stimulate “more deliberate action and collaboration” by generating a better understanding of the co-benefits of tackling climate and sustainable development agendas together at national, regional and global levels.

During the high-level segment of the event, ministers and senior leaders affirmed their commitments to climate and sustainable development, with many stressing the urgency of needed action. United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President Abdulla Shahid highlighted that the SDGs are “the framework that should guide our transition to a healthier and better world”, and highlighted the cross-cutting nature of climate change. He said that “protecting our oceans and forests, improving access to clean water and sanitation, ensuring access to sustainable energy and ensuring consumption and sustainable production…will help fight global warming and the worst effects of climate change.”

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin stressed “the need to invest in renewable technologies to create jobs and bring social and economic benefits to clean energy”, noting that “achieving synergies between climate and the SDGs can generate direct economic gains of $26 trillion by 2030.”

Throughout the two-day event, participants showcased a wide range of actions taken by governments, businesses and civil society to meet climate and sustainable development goals in tandem. These ranged from ski resorts wishing to ensure the continuity of snow seasons, to municipal authorities acting to reduce energy and food waste and to promote circular economies. Many speakers identified the co-benefits that can arise from action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including better public health outcomes and more attractive urban environments.

On the way forward, key lessons learned from the discussions, including considerations on how “imagining an integrated approach” can help to design concrete steps, the value of short and medium term goals – rather than waiting up to 2050, and the need for partnerships to benefit all parties, underpinned the general consensus that deep transformation is “necessary, possible and beneficial for all”.

From HLPF 2022 to COP 27

The need for integrated, whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to build back better while implementing the SDGs, which had been repeatedly emphasized during the July 2022 session of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), was one of the main messages coming out of the third World Climate Conference and the synergy of the SDGs.

Among the concrete steps countries could take to improve climate-SDG synergies, the conference recommended actions to streamline national reporting, such as benchmarking in their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). ) that are relevant to both the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

The need for enhanced collaboration between relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), including the UNFCCC, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), highlighted by the UNFCCC’s Acting Executive Secretary, Ibrahim Thiaw, also emerged as key, with speakers highlighting the links to the negotiations on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and action on desertification and ‘ocean.

The next major event focusing on climate action in the context of sustainable development is the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November. Looking ahead, DESA summarized key messages from the conference, including that:

  • win-win outcomes for synergies between climate action and the SDGs can be achieved through deliberate action;
  • integrated planning with local governments can catalyze progress;
  • a just transition to net zero emissions and leaving no one behind is essential and must include women, indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as young people; and
  • capacity building to identify opportunities and overcome obstacles, such as financial and technical challenges, are prerequisites for action.

It remains to be seen whether countries will take advantage of the opportunity provided by COP 27 to build on the outcomes of the 2022 HLPF and the Third World Climate Conference and the synergy of the SDGs and leverage existing linkages to enable a synergistic action on the climate and sustainability fronts, accelerating implementation and building back better, leaving no one behind.