Time for talk is over – a decade of action for the global goals starts now

The time to act is now. This message and plea to world leaders sounded loud and clear during an intense UN high-level week that brought together the international community to address critical challenges of our time. Our joint quest to reach the global goals by 2030 along with climate action, universal health coverage, financing sustainable development and addressing the dire challenges of small island nations were the burning issues addressed.

“There is a cost to everything. But the biggest cost is doing nothing,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said as the Climate Action Summit opened on 23 September. Painting a grim picture of the climate crisis the world is facing, Mr. Guterres warned of dire consequences if we do not act now.

Representing a growing global youth movement, climate activist Greta Thunberg echoed this urgency. As she addressed world leaders, her words were candid and her message was clear: “The eyes of all future generations are upon you, and if you choose to fail us, I say, we will never forgive you.”

Many nations heeded the call, using the Climate Summit to announce emission cuts and other measures to fight climate change. Several countries indicated that they would move away from fossil fuels, while others made financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund. The private sector also contributed, with 87 major companies committing to set 1.5˚C-aligned emission reduction targets throughout their operations. Over 22,000 climate actions have so far been captured on UNFCCC’s new Global Climate Action Portal.

SDG Summit kickstarts decade to deliver for people and planet

The SDG Summit showed that the commitment to realizing the 2030 Agenda is as strong as ever. It resulted in the adoption of the Political Declaration, “Gearing up for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.” World leaders called for accelerated action to deliver the SDGs by 2030, while announcing actions they are taking to advance the agenda. “I encourage us as leaders to resolve to make the next 10 years a period of accelerated action; mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda into our budgetary and national development plans,” said the President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad Bande.

At the same time, Mr. Guterres stressed that “We must step up our efforts. And we must do it now”. “We have the best solution in the Agenda 2030, our blueprint for a fair globalization,” he said.

Acceleration actions had  begun pouring in to UN DESA’s SDG Acceleration Action platform before the SDG Summit kicked off, with over 100 acceleration actions registered. Among them were Finland pledging carbon neutrality by 2035; the Maldives partnering with Parley for the Oceans, American Express, ABinBev and Adidas to deliver on many of the goals; Brazil setting to reduce premature mortality caused by non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030; Mexico to provide internet access for everyone; Greece committing to green growth; the Netherlands doubling the number of people to gain access to justice in parts of Africa and the Middle East; and Project Everyone’s ‘World’s Largest Lesson’ involving more than 500,000 students in Nigeria in learning about the goals.

Time to step up financing for the goals

The fourth high-level meeting of the week saw even more commitment to realizing a sustainable future.

At the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development on 26 September,  international actors announced over 20 new financing initiatives for realizing the worlds development goals. Among them is the 2X Challenge by the Development Finance Institutions of Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which aims to mobilize $3 billion by 2020 to invest in global women’s economic empowerment.

Other initiatives will focus on doubling climate-relevant official development assistance; investing in areas with large migrant outflows; new initiatives in agriculture and climate change; and a climate information hub for African youth. SDG Advocate Richard Curtis also announced the Make My Money Matter campaign.

“We are demanding global unity for a global crisis”

On 27 September, leaders reviewed the SAMOA Pathway, aimed at achieving sustainable development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). They found that a major increase in investment in these nations is urgently needed, and that the road to stability is threatened by environmental challenges, economic crises and food insecurity. Although improvements are seen when it comes to social inclusion, gender equality, poverty and unemployment, inequality still remains a problem.

To overcome these challenges, the importance of partnerships was underscored by many. The week saw new alliances being forged and captured in the SIDS Partnership database and as SDG Acceleration Actions. Small Island Developing States themselves also announced a collective commitment to raise the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020, to move to net zero emissions by 2050 and 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

As the high-level week and the five summits wrapped up, the main message stemming from them all will continue to resonate the world over: The time for words is over, the time to act is now.

As actor and ocean activist Jason Momoa also put it in his powerful message to the SAMOA Pathway event, “We are demanding global unity for a global crisis, to once again bring harmony between man and the natural balance of our world.”

For more information:

Climate Action Summit

SDG Summit

High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development

SAMOA Pathway Midterm Review