Yesterday, 195 countries adopted an agreement to combat climate change. And in July, 193 countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. Both are important successes for the future of humankind, even if it is not clear how far all these countries will stick to their commitments in the future.
I find it interesting to look into both documents together. The climate agreement reinforces a central theme of the Sustainable Development Goals – namely: It is important not treat questions of economy, environment, health, and inclusive societies separately. The global challenges are deeply linked. Climate change threatens especially those humans living in extreme poverty. People with more money can better afford to move to less endangered locations, or to build stronger houses. At the same time, poverty is statistically linked to being part of an ethnic minority, to being a women, to having a disability …
It is a good sign that both documents contain explicit references to the most vulnerable people.
As an example, here are a few quotes from the climate agreement:
[Preamble] Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity
[7.5] Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate
These are quotes from the Sustainable Development Goals:
Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
8.5 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
The big questions, of course, are the following:
How far, and how, will these general policies be concretely implemented in the various countries?
Will this integrated approach also have real-world consequences on the “hard” topics of politics? Will the finance, economy and defence ministers of the world truly join the fight to join the global challenges? Or will the important questions stay on the sideline, in the “soft” areas of politics – integrated with each other, but not with the real business?
Update: The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has published a helpful pocket guide: Climate Negotiations Terminology (PDF).