A new era of collective action?

Conference at UN-City explores how to find and utilise synergies between climate action and sustainable development, and stimulate action on all levels, aligned to both SDG's and the Paris Agreement.

April 1, 2019

Today marked the opening of the Climate & SDGs Synergy Conference in UN-City Copenhagen. A conference organised by UN DESA and the UNFCCC in collaboration with UNEP DTU Partnership and UNOPS aimed to align the climate and SDG processes, and stimulate action from stakeholders at the global, regional and country levels to maximize co-benefits.

Participants at this Conference, held from 1 to 3 April, will identify specific examples to illustrate the potential of synergistic and interlinked approaches towards realizing the objectives of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

Setting the scene

During the opening ceremony, the Danish Special Envoy for Climate and Energy track at the September Climate Summit, Ditlev Engel, contributed to setting the scene for the conference:

“Combating climate change might just be one SDG, but it is paramount to achieve all other SDGs,” he said, adding that we all have an obligation to ensure more action, much faster.

“We only have a decade to get it done before irreversible changes will occur, so everyone needs to get involved to raise ambition. Together we can achieve the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, for the benefit of people and planet.”

Grete Faremo, Executive Director, UNOPS, echoed the sense of urgency in her opening remarks, highlighting the conference’s focus on fair climate action in line with the sustainable development agenda

“We need climate action now, but we need to do it in a fair manner. This is very much about partnerships. Alone none of us can do the job, so we need to find ways of working together,” she said.

Failing our aspirations: A new course needed

“Our actions are failing to live up to our aspirations. Sustainable development will not happen without achieving the goals in the Paris Agreement.”

Those were some of the words of Annisa Triyanti, UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) and representative of HLPF Major Groups and other Stakeholders Coordination Mechanism, during the opening.

Daniele Violetti, Director, UNFCC, echoed the need to change the global course:

“We are entering a new era of collective action, but we are not on the right track at the moment. Focus now needs to be on translating knowledge into action.”

He mentioned the terrible devastation of Cyclone Idai as an example of the human costs we are already facing because of climate change.

As the final speaker of the opening ceremony, Minoru Takada, Team Leader for Sustainable Energy at the Division for Sustainable Development Goals at UN DESA, started out by thanking UNEP DTU Partnership and UNOPS for hosting the important conference.

Focusing on the impact of the conference, he highlighted that the output will be used in further work on both SDG’s and climate action:

“We want to bring your suggestions to the high level SDG 13 review in July, and we want actions to bring to the UN Secretary General’s climate summit in September.”

Dramatic changes needed.

Following the opening session, a panel of experts and stakeholders from all sectors sat down on stage to explore synergies and how to maximise the co-benefits of tackling climate change and sustainable development.

In the opening presentation, Nebosja Nakicenovis, action Deputy Director General and CEO of International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and lead author on the fifth IPCC report, pointed to the fact, that global CO2 emissions in 2018 continued to rise. Last year with 2,3 %, marking yet another year with record high emissions.

“I cannot think of a more urgent subject than action to advance synergies between the two. We cannot afford to leave any SDG behind, just like we cannot afford to leave any people behind,” he said.

Flavia Schlegel, Special Envoy for Science in Global Policy, International Science Council, added in the presentations that the SDG and climate agendas are not two different agendas, but one and the same, and that urgent action is needed.

“Doing a little bit better and a little bit more efficient is not enough. How we do business and how we distribute responsibility and benefits has to change dramatically”.
The Conference will run until the 3rd, with high level segments taking place on Tuesday the 2nd.