The synergies between the Paris Agreement and the SDGs: An opportunity for national governments to achieve key climate targets

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Paris Agreement and climate targets

Dr Noah A. Izoukumor, Member of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group

Introduction

The Paris Agreement (PA) was adopted on the 12th of December 2015.[1] The central aim of the PA is to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels or even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.[2] To achieve this aim, Parties to the PA made individual commitments through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The ‘NDCs, are actions that Parties to the PA plan to undertake to address climate change’ at the national level.[3] Most of the initial NDCs made commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030.[4]

 In 2015, the same year the PA was adopted, the United Nations also adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Development Goals.[5] The SDGs are 17 aspirational goals and 169 associated targets. The SDGs are also meant to be achieved by 2030.

In other words, both the PA and SDGs were adopted in 2015, and the targets and obligations were to be achieved by 2030.[6] This raises some critical questions about whether it is possible to align the obligations of the PA with key related SDGs, or is it possible to achieve key SDGs targets that are linked with the PA simultaneously since both targets are meant to be achieved by 2030?  On the contrary, it was argued that how the alignment of the PA with the SDGs is possible considering that the SDGs and the PA are two separate instruments.[7]  In this research blog, the aim is to briefly assess the possibility of the alignment between PA obligations with key SDGs, and the key benefits of such alignments at the national level.

Are there synergies between climate change and the SDGs?  

There is emerging research on the integration of climate change and the SDGs.[8]  Nerini and others elaborated on the possible alignment of climate change and SDGs. They acknowledged that in most countries, climate change and sustainable development remain separated.[9] According to them, ‘capitalizing on synergistic actions can enable both sets of objectives to be met more quickly, efficiently and effectively.’[10] 

Antwi-Agyei and Dougill investigated the alignment of SDGs and NDCs.[11] They examined NDCs submitted by 11 West African states and their link to key SDGs.[12] Their investigation shows the strong commitment of West African countries to food security which can be aligned with related SDGs.[13] They argued that this alignment provides opportunities for national development on the low carbon pathway.[14] 

Also, a critical assessment of the provisions of the PA and the SDGs unveils that there is a synergy between the PA and some of the SDGs. For instance, SDG targets 15.2 and 15:3 deal with combating desertification and sustainable management of all forests. These targets 15.2 and 15:3 of the SDG are related to Article 5 (2) of the PA, which emphasised sustainable forest management practices. Also, SDG targets 7:1 and 7:2 deal with the development of renewable energy. These targets have a direct link with Article 10 (1) (2) Paris Agreement which emphasised the development of technology.

The above examples show that there is a link between the PA and some key SDGs. The implication of the relationship between the PA and the key SDGs is that the achievement of the targets of the PA could lead to the achievement of related SDGs targets. So, the next question is what the likely benefits of the synergies between the PA and the SDGs are.  

The benefits of synergies between the PA and SDGs

The synergies between the PA and key SDGs present an opportunity to collaborate amongst key relevant climate change Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and SDG implementation agencies.[15] Recent development in countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Vietnam show how MDAs and SDG implementation agencies can collaborate and implement key related targets in both SDGs and PA.

In 2017, three MDAs in Mexico collaborated to implement SDG and NDC targets.[16] The office of the President of Mexico, which is responsible for the SDG implementation, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, and the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change which are responsible for the NDC support close coordination of SDG and NDC implementation.[17] Also, in Japan, there is a well-coordinated institutional arrangement of SDG and NDC implementation. Relevant institutions for the implementation of SDG and NDC are led by the Global Warming Prevention Headquarters, chaired by the prime minister, including relevant cabinet ministers.[18] In Colombia, an Inter-Agency Commission is established to implement the Post-2015 Development Agenda.[19] In Vietnam, a National Council for Sustainable Development and Competitiveness Enhancement and a working group of the Council were established. These two organisations are to address key achievable SDGs that are linked to climate change.

Again, the nexus between the PA and key SDGs will enable key climate change-related MDAs to match budgets and channel funds to key priority areas such as the energy and forest sectors. This is exactly what the Mexican government did where MDAs were requested to match budget programmes to the top priority areas of SDG and national goals.[20]

However, there are key challenges to the alignment between PA and SDGs. First, climate change instruments and the SDGs agenda have their respective histories and already established implementation agencies in different sectors.[21] This means there are likely issues of functional overlap among ministries while implementing interlinkages. Second, the alignment could lead to a trade-off with perceived unaligned SDGs.[22] This means that national governments may give less attention to SDGs that are not directly linked to climate change obligations, such as SDG 4, which talks about free education.

Despite the likely challenges, it is argued that the benefit of aligning the PA and the SDGs cannot be overemphasised. The alignment presents an opportunity for national government agencies to collaborate, and channel funds to key related targets in both PA and key SDGs. The collaboration will enable both sets of objectives to be met more quickly, efficiently, and effectively.[23] 

References


[1]L Rajamani, ‘The Warsaw climate negotiations: emerging understandings and battle lines on the road to the 2015 climate agreement’(2014) 63(3) International & Comparative Law Quarterly 721-740; L Rajamani, ‘The Durban platform for enhanced action and the future of the climate regime’ (2012) 61 (2) International & Comparative Law Quarterly,  501-518.

[2] Article 2 UN General Assembly, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change/ Adopted at the COP 21 in Paris, France, 12 December 2015 FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1 accessed 1st April 2022.

[3] FZ Taibi and S Konrad, Pocket Guide to NDCs under the UNFCCC (ECBI 2018) 1-2.

[4] For instance, the EU and its member states committed to a domestic reduction of 40% by 2030. See Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of the EU and its Member States (2015) available at  LV-03-06-EU INDC (unfccc.int)> Accessed  2nd April 2022.

[5]Millennium Development Goals and beyond 2015 < United Nations Millennium Development Goals > Accessed 6th April 2022.

[6] However, net zero emission is possible by 2050 and most countries have updated their NDCs in line with 2050 deadline. See The update of the nationally determined contribution of the European Union and its Member States available at EU_NDC_Submission_December 2020.pdf (unfccc.int) Accessed  7th  April 2022.

[7] Paragraph 55. UN General Assembly, transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, A/RES/70/1.; K. Shamin and R Kibugi, ‘Brief on Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Taking Action on Climate Change and Its Impacts: Contributions of International Law, Policy and Governance’ (2017) 13 McGill Journal on Sustainable Development Law 183.

[8] P Antwi-Agyei and others, Identifying Opportunities for Coherence between the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, and the Sustainable Development Goals:  The Case of ECOWAS Member States (Sustainability Research Institute School of Earth and Environment 2017) 5; The State of The World’s Forest, Forest Pathway to Sustainable Development, (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2018) 100-107, available at < http://www.fao.org/3/I9535EN/i9535en.pdf > Accessed 2nd April 2022; Climate Change and SDG Synergy Conference, Background Paper Leveraging Climate Change and SDG Interlinkages: Country Experiences (TERI School of Advanced Studies for UN DESA 2019) available at < https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/22155Background_PaperTERILeveraging_Climate_Change_and_SDG_Interlinkages.pdf > Accessed 2nd April 2022 ; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,  Climate-smart agriculture Sustainable Development Goals, Mapping interlinkages, synergies and trade-off s and guidelines for integrated implementation (Food       and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome, 2019) 84-101 available at<  http://www.fao.org/3/ca6043en/ca6043en.pdf  > Accessed 2nd  April 2022; V Masson-Delmotte,  T Waterfield and others (eds), Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty (IPCC 2018)  19 -20, available at https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/05/SR15_SPM_version_report_LR.pdf > Accessed 3rd April 2022.                

[9]  F Nerini and others , ‘Connecting climate action with other Sustainable Development Goals’ (2019) 2 (8) Nature Sustainability, 674-680 at 678.

[10] Ibid.

[11] P Antwi-Agyei and A Dougill, How best to align planning for Nationally Determined Contributions and Sustainable Development Goals:  West African Lessons (Sustainability Research Institute School of Earth and Environment 2018) 2.

[12] Ibid .

[13] Such as SDGs 1, 2, 6, 7, 13 and 15. Ibid .

[14] Antwi-Agyei and others (n 11).  

[15] M Bouyé, S Harmeling and NS Schulz , Connecting the dots: Elements for a joined-up implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit 2018) 16; Sustainable Development Goal Knowledge Platform, Global Conference on Strengthening Synergies between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Maximizing Co-Benefits by Linking Implementation across SDGs and Climate Action (United Nations 2019) at 50 available at <https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/climate-sdgs-synergies2019 > Accessed 6th April 2022.

[16]  Bouyé and others (n 15).

[17] Ibid.  

[18] Sustainable Development Goal Knowledge Platform (n 15).

[19] OECD, Opening of the Inter-ministerial Commission on OECD Affairs, Opening remarks by Angel Gurría OECD Secretary-General October 2019 – Bogota, Colombia.

[20] Bouyé and others (n 15) 48.

[21]Sustainable Development Goal Knowledge Platform (n 15).

[22] Sustainable Development Goal Knowledge Platform(n 15).

[23] Nerini and others (n 9).  

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