HLPF Side Event Examines Gaps and Synergies Between Climate Action and the SDGs


  • 2022•07•08

    On 7 July 2022, UNU-IAS co-organised a side event of the 2022 UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which discussed challenges and opportunities in scaling up climate action while advancing sustainable development. The online event brought together diverse perspectives from the UN system, academia, and civil society on critical gaps and how they can be closed by realising synergies between the two agendas.

    Experts shared examples of synergies, trade-offs, and good practices; identified success factors; and underlined the critical role of research and education. The event provided valuable inputs for the Third International Conference on Enhancing Synergies between the Paris Agreement and the SDGs (Tokyo, 20–21 July 2022), and the Transforming Education Summit (New York, 19 September 2022).

    In opening remarks, Hiroshi Ono (Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, Japan) noted that the world was quickly moving towards net-zero carbon, and underlined that Japan was striving to reach the goal by 2030, two decades ahead of the 2050 target.

    Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director, UNU-IAS) emphasised that accelerating action on climate change and the SDGs in unison would require greater ambition and a stronger connection between the two agendas. She highlighted recent discussions in various international forums on how to close the gaps, and called for partnerships to engage expertise in multiple fields to promote synergies.

    A keynote speech by Gabriela Iacobuta (Researcher, German Institute of Development and Sustainability) detailed the interlinkages between the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. She observed that the effects of climate measures on the SDGs were mostly positive, but some important trade-offs must be considered. Key gaps include climate measures related to social goals such as SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 4 (quality education), and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities).

    Shen Xiaomeng (Vice-Rector in Europe, UNU & Director, UNU-EHS) moderated a panel discussion that explored the issue of gaps and synergies across multiple dimensions. Minoru Takada (Team Leader, Sustainable Energy, UN DESA) warned that on the current trajectory the world would not reach net zero by 2050, calling for national ambitions to be fully aligned with the SDGs. Sergey Kononov (Manager, Department for Programmes Coordination, UNFCCC Secretariat) underlined the need for coordination and coherence at both the national and international levels, in order to accelerate climate action by taking into account other dimensions of sustainable development.

    Emphasising interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches, Bartel Van de Walle (Director, UNU-MERIT) argued that researchers should look beyond their institutions and work with communities and local stakeholders to achieve global priorities. Melissa Brown Goodall (Senior Director, Penn Environmental Innovations Initiative, University of Pennsylvania) discussed local action on global challenges, including climate justice education and testing technologies for heat islands in cities. She noted that higher education institutions, as generators of knowledge, played a key role in developing solutions for transformative change.

    Citing entrepreneurship, innovation, and youth engagement as drivers of economic development needed for climate action, Erick Tambo (Academic Officer, UNU-EHS) stressed the importance of an enabling environment to address different goals. Junko Akagi (Research Manager, Kitakyushu Urban Centre, IGES) outlined three challenges in strengthening synergies between climate action and sustainable development: policy integration and alignment; stakeholder engagement; and psychological barriers to change.

    Summarising the discussion, Prof Shen emphasised the need to strengthen linkages between climate action and the SDGs across society, and within and between policymaking and academia. Prof Yamaguchi added that synergy required transcending silos, noting that promising signs had been evident at the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021 (COP26).

    The event was moderated by Akio Takemoto (Programme Head, UNU-IAS).