Sustainable Development Goal 13

Sustainable Development Goal 13 (SDG 13 or Goal 13) is about climate action and is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015. The official wording is to "Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts". The Goal has targets to be achieved by 2030. Progress towards targets is measured by indicators.

The targets cover a wide range of issues surrounding climate action. There are five targets in total. The first three targets are "output targets": Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters; integrate climate change measures into policies and planning; build knowledge and capacity to meet climate change. The remaining two targets are "means of achieving" targets: To implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; and to promote mechanisms to raise capacity for planning and management. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

The decade between 2010 - 2019 was the warmest decade recorded in history. Currently climate change is affecting the global community in each country of the world. Its impact affects not only national economies, but also lives and livelihoods, especially those in vulnerable conditions. By 2018, climate change continued exacerbating the frequency of natural disasters, such as massive wildfires, droughts, hurricanes and floods, affecting more than 39 million of people. Over the period 2000–2018, green house emissions of developed countries and economies in transitions have declined by 6.5%. The emissions of the developing countries are up by 43% in the period between 2000 and 2013. In 2019, at least 120 of 153 developing countries had undertaken activities to formulate and implement national adaptation plans.

SDG 13 and SDG 7 on clean energy are closely related and complementary. The leading sources of the greenhouse gas savings that countries need to focus on in order to realize their commitments under the Paris Agreement are switching fuels to renewable energy and enhancing end-use energy efficiency.

Background

The year 2019 was the second warmest on record. It was at the end of the warmest decade, 2010 to 2019. With the existing climate model, global temperatures are expected to rise as much as 3.2 C° by the end of the century.

The Paris Agreement, built upon the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was adopted at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris, in December 2015 by the parties (member states). It brought all nations to a common cause to fight climate change and adapt to its effects to keep the temperature rise this century below 2 C°.

The UN discussions and negotiations identified the links between the post-2015 SDG process and the Financing for Development process that concluded in Addis Ababa in July 2015 and the COP 21 Climate Change conference in Paris in December 2015.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, published a special report "Global Warming of 1.5°C". It outlined the impacts of a 1.5 °C global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, and highlighted the possibility of avoiding a number of such impacts by limiting global warming to 1.5 °C compared to 2 °C, or more. The report mentioned that this would require global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching "net zero" around 2050, through “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

In May 2019, the IPCC released the 2019 Refinement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. In August 2019 an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems was started. The Special Report on the Ocean and Hydrosphere in a Changing Climate was released in September 2019.

Targets, indicators and progress

SDG 13 has five targets. The targets cover a wide range of issues surrounding climate action, including to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters (Target 13.1), integrate climate change measures into policies and planning (Target 13.2), build knowledge and capacity to meet climate change (Target 13.3), implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Target 13.a), and promote mechanisms to raise capacity for planning and management (Target 13.b).

Each target includes one or more indicators that help to measure and monitor the progress. Some of the indicators are number of deaths, missing people and directly affected people attributed to disasters per 100,000 population (13.1.1) or total greenhouse emissions generated by year (13.2.2.)

World map related to Indicator 13.1.1 in 2017: Internally displaced persons from natural disasters
World map related to Indicator 13.1.2 in 2018. The map shows the number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030

Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters

The full text of Target 13.1 is: "Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries".

This target has 3 indicators.

  • Indicator 13.1.1: Number of deaths, missing people and directly affected people attributed to disasters per 100,000 population
  • Indicator 13.1.2.: Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement and not, local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies
  • Indicator 13.1.3: Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies

For Indicator 13.1.1 the United Nations considers three concepts that are relevant for its understanding: a) Death, which is related to people who died during the disaster, or directly after, as a result of the hazardous event; b) Missing, people whose whereabouts are unknown since the hazardous event; and c) Directly affected, refers to the people who have suffered injury, illness or other health effects; who were evacuated, displaced, relocated or have suffered direct damage to their livelihoods, economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets.

Indicator 13.1.2 serves as a bridge between the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Indicator 13.1.3 needs to be aligned with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, disaster risk reduction and should mainstream and integrate disaster risk reduction within and across all sectors.

By 2018, climate change continued exacerbating the frequency of natural disasters, such as massive wildfires, droughts, hurricanes and floods, affecting more than 39 million of people. As of 2020, 85 countries have national disaster risk reduction strategies, which are aligned to the Sendai Framework.

Approximately 60,000 people globally die from the natural disasters each year. Totally, the deaths from natural disasters represent around 0.1% of global deaths. However, in case of high-impact events, the number can change and range from 0.01 % to 0.4% of total deaths.

There was a significant decline in global deaths from natural disasters since second half of the 20th century. At the beginning of 20th century, the annual average was around 400,000 - 500,000 deaths. In the early 2000s, there has been a significant decline to 100,000 and less. That is at least five times lower than in the early 1900s. Considering this data in terms of death rates a population growth (measured per 100,000 people) – there was at least 10-fold decline over the past century.

Improvement in living standards is crucial to avoid more deaths or injuries from the natural disasters. Access to resilient infrastructure, local development and effective response systems are especially problematic in low-income countries, which are facing higher risks during natural disasters.

Target 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into policy and planning

World map for Indicator 13.2.2: CO2 emissions per capita, 2016 (Our World in Data)

The full text of Target 13.2 is: "Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning".

This target has one indicator: Indicator 13.2.1 is the "Number of countries with nationally determined contributions, long-term strategies, national adaptation plans, strategies as reported in adaptation communications and national communications".

In order to avoid catastrophic impacts, carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions need to decline by about 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero in 2050. To be able to meet the 1.5 C° or even 2 C°, which is the maximum target made by the Paris Agreement, greenhouse gas emissions must start to fall by 7.6 percent per year starting on 2020. However, the world is way off track in meeting this target at the current level of nationally determined contributions. Over the period 2000–2018, green house emissions of developed countries and economies in transitions have declined by 6.5%. The emissions of the developing countries are up by 43% in the period between 2000 and 2013.

Target 13.3: Build knowledge and capacity to meet climate change

The full text of Target 13.3 is: "Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning".

This target has two indicators:

  • Indicator 13.3.1: The extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment
  • Indicator 13.3.2: Number of countries that have communicated the strengthening of institutional, systemic and individual capacity-building to implement adaptation, mitigation and technology transfer, and development actions

The indicator 13.3.1 measures the extent to which countries mainstream Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in their education systems and educational policies.

The indicator 13.3.2 identifies countries who have and have not adopted and implemented disaster risk management strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The goal by 2030 is to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

To explain the concept of "Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship seeks to equip learners with the knowledge of how their choices impact others and their immediate environment.

There are currently no data available for this indicator as of September 2020.

Target 13.a: Implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

World map for Indicator 13.A.1: Green Climate Fund mobilization of $100 billion, 2018

The full text of Target 13.a is: "Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible."

This target only has one indicator: Indicator 13.a.1 is the "Amounts provided and mobilized in United States dollars per year in relation to the continued existing collective mobilization goal of the $100 billion commitment through to 2025".

Previously, the indicator was worded as "Mobilized amount of United States dollars per year between 2020 and 2025 accountable towards the $100 billion commitment".

This indicator measures the current pledged commitments from countries to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the amounts provided and mobilized in United States dollars (USD) per year in relation to the continued existing collective mobilization goal of the US$100 billion commitment to 2025. Currently according to the United Nations data for this indicator is not yet developed.

Regarding funding, by December 2019, 81 countries submitted 83 proposals totaling $203.8 million requesting support from the Green Climate Fund.

There was an increase of $681 billion from 2015 to 2016 with regard to global climate finance. Renewable energy received high levels of new private investment. This represents the largest segment of the global total. These financial flows are relatively small in relation to the scale of annual investment needed for a low-carbon, climate-resilient transition.

In April 2018, 175 countries ratified the Paris Agreement and 168 parties had communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the UN framework convention on Climate Change Secretariat. As of March 2020, 189 countries had ratified the Paris Agreement and 186 of them - including the European Union - have communicated their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Target 13.b: Promote mechanisms to raise capacity for planning and management

This indicator identifies countries who have and have not adopted and implemented disaster risk management strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The full text of Target 13.b is: "Number of least developed countries and small island developing states with nationally determined contributions long-term strategies, national adaptation plans, strategies as reported in adaptation communications and national communications."

This target has one indicator: Indicator 13.b.1 is the "Number of least developed countries and small island developing states with nationally determined contributions, long-term strategies, national adaptation plans, strategies as reported in adaptation communications and national communications".

A previous version of this indicator was: "Indicator 13.b.1: Number of least developed countries and small island developing states that are receiving specialized support, and amount of support, including finance, technology and capacity building, for mechanisms for raising capacities for effective climate change-related planning and management, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities." This indicator's previous focus on women, youth and local and marginalized communities is not included anymore in the latest version of the indicator.

In 2019, at least 120 of 153 developing countries had undertaken activities to formulate and implement national adaptation plans. This is an increase of 29 countries, compared with 2018. The plans will help countries achieve the global goal on adaptation under the Paris Agreement.

Custodian agencies

Custodian agencies are in charge of reporting on the following indicators:

Monitoring

High-level progress reports for all the SDGs are published in the form of reports by the United Nations Secretary General. The most recent one is from April 2020. Additionally, updates and progress can also be found on the SDG website that is managed by the United Nations.

Challenges

Impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a drastic reduction in human activity and an economic crisis. This has resulted in a 6% drop in greenhouse gas emissions projected for 2020. In this context the 6% drop of emissions projected for 2020 are still not enough to reach the target. Emissions are expected to rise once the restrictions to face the pandemic are lifted.

The year 2020 has seen a decreased motion of climate crises as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic a drop of 6% in CO2 emissions has been noted in this year and potentially up to 8%, the largest year-on-year reduction on record. This has resulted to UNEP supporting all investors and policy makers to financing and fiscal stimulus packages and to prioritize green and descent jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has caused worldwide disruptions for both production and human activity with some positive consequences for the environment in terms of GHG emissions. China especially has seen a sharp drop in coal-fired power station utilization likely because of the 5% drop in energy demand nation-wide and globally. Many parts of the world have experienced a reduction in air pollution and atmospheric NO2 emissions. Air quality along with climate variability like latitude, temperature and humidity have been speculated to affect rates of COVID-19 outbreak; should this be the case it only stands to substantiate the importance of close monitoring, effective and collaborative international communication and early warning systems as well as adherence to SDGs for their focus on preparedness, adaptation and resilience for natural disasters and pandemics.

Despite the slight benefits to emissions reduction which the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, SDG 13 still faces several threats to its progress. An expected 6% reduction in emissions worldwide as well as record carbon emission reductions are still expected to rebound to emission levels larger than the initial decline in the interest of economic stimulus. Funding for economic policies will likely divert the emergency funds usually afforded to climate funding like The Green Climate Fund and sustainable policies, unless an emphasis is put on green deals in the redirection of monetary funds.

A rebound in transport pollution is predicted as lockdown restrictions of governments ease up. This is because countries like the United States are reducing efficiency standards and restricting environmental standard enforcement. The outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference UK ’20, or, COP26, is being postponed. This is another setback and example of how collective action has been put on hold while nations globally recover from the fallout of the pandemic.

Links with other SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goal 13 is related with the other SDGs intrinsically. For the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals the implementation the Paris Agreement is essential.

It was stated in 2015 that a high-ambition climate agreement is most crucial to achieving the SDGs relating to poverty (SDG 1), inequality (SDG 10), climate change (SDG 13) and global partnerships for sustainable development (SDG 17). The report also states that tackling climate change will only be possible if the SDGs are met. Further, economic development and climate change are inextricably linked, particularly around poverty, gender equality, and energy. The UN encourages the public sector to take initiative in this effort to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

SDG 13 and SDG 7 on clean energy are closely related and complementary. The leading sources of the greenhouse gas savings that countries need to focus on in order to realize their commitments under the Paris Agreement are switching fuels to renewable energy and enhancing end-use energy efficiency.

Organizations

United Nations organizations

  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) secretariat supports the response to climate change of its 197 parties in advancing the implementation of the UNFCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, providing technical expertise, assisting them on the analysis on the information they do report on the frame of the implementation of the Kyoto mechanism and maintains the registry of the National Determined Contributions (NDCs). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was created as a pioneer step to address climate change by the United Nations. With currently 197 parties (countries) which ratifying the convention, it calls for member states to even in moments of scientific uncertainty, act in the interest of human safety.
  • UNFCCC Non Parties Participants are organized in three different categories to attend and participate of the UNFCCC process' conferences and meetings: 1. United Nations System and its Specialized Agencies, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). By 2018, the admitted observers included over 2,200 NGOs and 130 IGOs.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides governments on their different constituencies with scientific information, regarding climate change, its impact, future risk adaptation and mitigation processes, so they can develop their climate policies. The IPPC issues reports that are key for international climate negotiations.
  • The Conferences of the Parties (COP), is the main international body to measure the actions taken by parties (countries) and the progress made regarding the effective implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), that is held every year, unless the parties decide otherwise.
  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
  • UN-Habitat, promotes social and environmentally sustainable towns, cities and communities as part of its mandates by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
  • United Nations Environment Program (UNEP): global authority that sets the environmental agenda, enabling nations and people to improve their quality of life without compromising future generations.
  • Green Climate Fund (GCF), established in 2010 by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): the GCF is the largest dedicated fund dedicated to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and enhance their ability to respond to climate change.
  • NDC Partnerships, hosted by the World Resource Institute and the United Nations Climate Change: this partnership with over 100 members that include developed and developing countries worldwide, non state actors and major institutions to fast track climate and development actions supporting countries to implement their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are part of their commitments to the Paris Agreement.
  • YOUNGO, recognized on 2009 by the UNFCCC as the official youth constituency, was fully recognized at COP 17 at Durban, South Africa on 2011 after operating on a provisional status. YOUNGO is a network or youth lead, organization, groups, delegations and individuals working on climate affairs, ensuring youth perspectives and future generations are taken in consideration at the UNFCCC negotiations and multilateral decision making processes.

NGOs and others

The following NGOs and other organizations are helping to achieve SDG 13:

  • Greenpeace
  • Climate Action Network (CAN), is a worldwide network that coordinates the development of NGO strategies to address international, regional and national climate issues.
  • The Climate Reality Project is a group of activists, cultural leaders, organizers, scientists, and storytellers committed to building a sustainable future together, by empowering people to become activists, facilitating tools, training and a network to drive change to protect the planet.
  • Fridays for Future (FFF) is a global strike movement that encourages other people to take action for the planet through a global school strike for climate. The movement started in August 2018, after Greta Thunberg's strikes demanding action to face the climate crisis, in front of the Swedish Parliament.
  • World Resources Institute (WRI) is a research organization focusing on seven critical intersections between development and environment: cities and ocean, food, forest, water, climate and energy.
  • Public Regional Mechanism - Escazú Agreement, during the preparatory negotiation process of the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) Regional Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Affairs Accord - Escazú Agreement, the LAC signatories governments of the Declaration for the Implementation of the Principle 10 agreed on create a Public Participation Mechanism to keep informed interested actors in the Escazú Agreement and facilitate their participation in the sessions delivered on its regards.
  • Euroclima is a cooperation program that focus on public policies to address climate change between the European Union (EU) and the Latin American the Caribbean (LAC) region. It was created after the commitment adopted between the EU and LAC region heads of State, in Lima 2008 on the frame of the EU - LAC Summit.
Uses material from the Wikipedia article Sustainable Development Goal 13, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.