Climate change is making it significantly harder to achieve the Global Goals, according to a new report by the United Nations.
The Global Goals aim to create a healthier, fairer, and more sustainable world by 2030, and were ratified by all members of the UN in 2015. The 17 Global Goals include ensuring universal access to water, sanitation, nutritious food, and education, and eradicating injustices like poverty, gender equality, and environmental degradation.
They’re ambitious and visionary in their scope, but determinedly focused in their objectives to allow for accountability. Four years after the Global Goals were adopted, the world has made uneven progress, and serious obstacles have emerged, according to the UN.
Climate change, in particular, could unravel progress across all objectives.
“The natural environment is deteriorating at an alarming rate: sea levels are rising; ocean acidification is accelerating; the last four years have been the warmest on record; 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, and land degradation continues unchecked,” Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said in a statement.
“It is abundantly clear that a much deeper, faster, and more ambitious response is needed to unleash the social and economic transformation needed to achieve our 2030 goals,” he added.
The risks posed by climate change are varied. As the world gets hotter, heat waves that cause extensive health problems are becoming more common. Changing precipitation patterns are leading to droughts that undermine agricultural systems and water supplies, eroding progress on various goals. Climate change is also making extreme weather events more likely. In the decades ahead, tens of millions of people are predicted to get displaced by storms and sea levels rise.
These impacts have chain reactions, affecting the ability of countries to feed populations, improve child education rates, build sustainable infrastructure, and expand access to jobs.
The window to effectively combat climate change is also shrinking. Countries have until 2030 to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Because emissions are currently rising, that goal is becoming increasingly unlikely. Based on current projections, the planet could rise by as much as 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which would unleash catastrophic planetary changes.
But it’s not a lost cause yet, according to the UN. Advances in renewable energy are making it possible to end the global reliance on fossil fuels. More importantly, huge protest movements are forcing countries to take action and commit to reducing their emissions.
“The challenges highlighted in this report are global problems that require global solutions,” said Liu Zhenmin, the UN’s under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs, in a statement. “Just as problems are interrelated, the solutions to poverty, inequality, climate change, and other global challenges are also interlinked.”