Introducing SDG 13 on Climate Change
Sustainable development and climate change are goals that should not be pursued independently by any country. Members of the UN have finally recognised the interrelatedness of these two crucial goals through the inclusion of climate change as a single Sustainable Development Goal.
This SDG emphasises a major milestone since the challenge of climate change in the earlier Millennium Development Goals was not fully exhausted. Everyone is now waiting for the imminent climate talks that will be held in Paris in December 2015 where new international treaties aimed at ensuring global warming stays below 20 degrees celsius will be established.
A climate that continues warming up will affect food security, freshwater availability and energy among other necessities of life.
There is an important collective responsibility on every country to fight climate change while acknowledging the unique circumstances each nation faces in their capacity to deal with the issue. The private sector must take on this responsibility of fighting climate change, where they will take the necessary actions in agreement with potential and circumstances.
Climate change now affects all the countries in the world. It is currently disrupting economies, affecting lives and countries very dearly, and these effects are bound to continue if remedial steps are not taken. Some of the significant climate change effects include evolving weather patterns, extreme weather event, and a rising sea level.
Human activity is the leading contributor to rising greenhouse gas emissions, which is the driving force behind climate change. In fact, these harmful emissions are now at their peak levels in all of history. Experts predict that the surface temperature will continue rising and even surpass the 3 degrees Celsius mark this century if no action is taken. The most vulnerable persons and the poorest are the most affected by these climate change effects.
Scalable, cheap solutions are available to allow countries to make the change to more resilient and cleaner economies. The good thing is that many countries are making this change to cleaner energy and several other helpful measures at a quick pace, which will enhance adaptation efforts and significantly reduce emissions.
Climate change is not limited to one area of the world; rather it is a universal challenge that affects everyone in the world. Emissions from a certain area in the world will affect everyone everywhere. Thus, it is a challenge that demands well-coordinated solutions at the global level along with global cooperation to assist the developing nations to move towards low-carbon economies.
Global targets for climate change
The Sustainable Development Goal on climate change has clearly set out several critical targets, listed below, which every country should acknowledge and outline the specific targets and responsibilities befalling them.
Here are the main targets for SDG 13:
- Reinforce adaptive capacity and resilience to natural disasters and hazards related to climate change in every country.
- Incorporate measures to fight climate change into national planning, strategies and policies.
- Improve awareness-raising, education and institutional and human capacity on mitigation, impact reduction, early warning and adaptation to climate change.
- Implement the assurance undertaken by the countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to mobilise jointly $100 billion every year by 2020 to deal with the unique needs of the developing nations in regards to effective mitigation actions, transparent implementation and full operationalising the Green Climate Fund soonest possible.
- Promote actions for enhancing capacity for better climate change-linked management and planning in the least developed nation, including small island states, with a focus on youth, women, and marginalised local communities.
How can companies assist with these climate change mitigation efforts?
The private sector, including businesses and companies, have increased their part in fighting climate change, but there is still more to be done. There are numerous risks facing companies today including reputational risks, market risks and risks related to climate change policies. It is vital for businesses to act quickly and deal with this risk by seizing opportunities such as new streams of revenue or new investment.
For instance, HSBC has even realised how this field has great potential and has set up innovative climate change indices for investment through the bank. Additionally, business should also be aware that switching to low-carbon economies will result in more than $2 trillion in savings.
There are various interrelated actions that businesses can consider taking, and some have already started taking, in response to SDG 13. Simply lowering emissions is not enough. The latest target that companies should strive for is the positive net goal.
A notable champion in this regard is Dell, which seeks to be net positive through having their consumers do at least 10 times better than their carbon footprint. They have created a plan that includes key objectives to be completed by 2020, which includes cutting their product portfolio energy intensity by 80%, cutting their overall carbon footprint by fifty percent and also using waste-free packages for their products.
You cannot manage what you cannot measure
More complex measurement metrics and systems are essential for industries to allow better monitoring, evaluation and reporting of climate change impacts at all the levels of operations. These measurement resources will make climate change mitigation easier to manage as greener operational goals can be set.
Supply chains that are more climate-resilient are needed both for reducing emissions and implementing better adaptation levels to future climate-related risks. Businesses must also set high targets and expectations with all their suppliers in regards to greener practices. Liberty Global implemented an ambitious environmental program and recently announced $325 million worth of savings in 2014, along with an improvement of 31% in carbon efficiency.
Innovative processes and technology will continue playing a vital role in not only mitigating climate change impacts but also reversing them. Moreover, companies must show governance through making their position on climate change known and clear. Some of the suggested ways of greener governance include lobbying for climate change mitigation and making meaningful pledges. There is also a need for collaboration through creating partnerships between voluntary, public and private sectors.
In closing, a crucial element in achieving SDG 13 on climate change is taking urgent action towards reducing carbon emissions and the degradation of the environment. In fact, it is one of the most easily achievable goals in the September 2015 Sustainable Development Goals dossier.