UN Sustainable Development

Commentary on UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019

In 2015, the UN identified 17 global sustainable development goals – broad issues covering health, poverty, food, then environment, and good governance, as targets for 2030.  In the Summer of 2019 they released the latest report updating progress towards these goals

  • Poverty in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in rural areas, continues to be a major problem – with unemployment and lack of support networks for the most disadvantaged, plus increasing inequality between rich and poor.
  • Levels of CO2 have continued to rise sharply, following the most pessimistic of the scenarios set out at the turn of the millennium. As well as creating the “climate crisis” that we are experiencing and leading to ocean acidification, this increase is evident through warmer global temperatures, for instance 2018 was the 4th warmest year on record.
  • If this problem of continued high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is not addressed, some of the past progress towards the sustainable development goals will be reversed, for instance global hunger has recently increased, after a long-term decline.
  • This report follows those on the Climate Action and Biodiversity, which paint a worrying picture, in showing a lack of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and need for more concerted action to address the global climate crisis.

What is the work of the UNEP EEAP panel on the effects of UV radiation, ozone depletion in the context of the climate crisis?

  • It’s now 32 years since the Montreal Protocol limited the released of ozone depleting chemicals and the first thing to say is that we can hold up this treaty as an example of how effectively the international community can come together to address global issues through concerted action. It has been a success and consequently the ozone hole is now getting smaller each year.
  • This outcome is particularly important at high latitudes like in Finland. We now know that the climate is affected by ozone depletion interacting with circulation patterns in the stratosphere affecting our weather: e.g. in Antarctica causing changes in long-term precipitation patterns.
  • This treaty now also plays an important role in mitigating climate change, through the control of HFC GHGs, through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol – which will safe 0.5 C of warming during the 21st Century.
  • In general, UV radiation exposure changes with climate, and is affected by cloudiness and aerosol pollutants in the atmosphere, as well as ice and snow on the ground.
  • We understand how people’s health can be affected by UV radiation, but plants and animals also respond to the changes in UV and climate through migration and shifts in their phenology – their annual life-cycles – with the potential to affect food security and biodiversity.
  • These sort of effects are particularly strong over Antarctica, southern South America and Australia and New Zealand – where climate climate and ozone depletion interact.

You can read the UN Sustainability goals 2019 report here: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2019/

And the latest UNEP EEAP assessment here:  https://doi.org/10.1039/C8PP90061b

Executive Summary: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0314-2