Achieving the SDGs in the UK will help us fight climate change

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The latest round of global negotiations on tackling climate change, COP23, came to an end on Friday 17 November. Our CEO Sue Riddlestone OBE says that the SDGs provide us with an opportunity to achieve the Paris Agreement

The COP23 UN talks are hugely important, highly complex and will never end, because climate change is going to loom larger and larger as an issue of concern through this century.

But I hope one big picture which the negotiators from nearly 200 countries won’t ever lose sight of is the need to closely link action on reducing emissions and coping with climate change to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs.

These goals provide a golden opportunity to help nations make sustained progress on addressing global warming – both individually and collaboratively.

The 17 wide-ranging goals were developed in a ground-breaking way with civil society organisations, including Bioregional, and agreed by world leaders in 2015.

The SDGs recognise how the environmental and social aspects of sustainability are interconnected. There is a standalone Goal, number 13: “Take urgent action to tackle climate change and its impacts”. But they acknowledge that national policies and global programmes on climate change won’t be effective if they are devised in isolation; they need to join up with action on poverty reduction and inequality, health, education and so on.

They also recognise the roles and responsibilities of all – governments, business, civil society and citizens – in creating positive and necessary changes. And they are meant to apply everywhere, in countries rich and poor.

We often hear about UK showing international leadership on climate change, but to date, this has not been the case for the SDGs. The government’s unwillingness to adopt, or even discuss, how we can achieve the SDGs at a national level has been very disappointing. Ministers seem to see them only being relevant to UK overseas aid. Two years on from the SDGs being agreed by all nations, there is no UK national plan for implementing them, unlike in neighbouring countries such as Finland.

We now have an opportunity to demonstrate UK leadership on the SDGs – and by doing so, make progress on tackling climate change – while bypassing our Brexit-distracted and over-burdened government. We’re starting work on the world’s first stakeholder-led national action plan to implement the SDGs.

Who are we, you may ask? We’re a very wide-ranging network of business and civil society organisations who share a belief that the SDGs are truly important and useful for unravelling and solving the deep and challenging sustainability problems we face in the UK. Bioregional is proud to have helped set up and now co-chair the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD).

Our plan will have 17 chapters, each one devoted to one of the SDGs. It will show where the UK is falling short against the SDG targets, the opportunities they present, and the challenges we will need to address to achieve them. Together, the UKSSD network will present it to the UN’s High Level Political Forum on the SDGs in New York at a dedicated launch event.  

We want our plan to be a model for other nations to follow, and we hope that our own UK government will want to get involved.

If you would like to get involved in supporting the development of this plan – and in helping the UK to become a fairer, happier nation, while living within planetary limits, let us know here.

This blog originally appeared in Permaculture Magazine.

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