A set of tasks for the coming years

The Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Wind wheel at sunrise

Shortly before the Paris Climate Conference, the international community, meeting in New York in September 2015, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the year 2000. Unlike the MDGs, they take account of the economic and ecological dimensions of sustainable development as well as the social ones. Another difference between the two is that the SDGs apply to every country in the world. With the 2030 Agenda the international community has thus created a charter for transforming the world that is to be implemented by industrialised and developing countries alike.

The Paris Climate Agreement makes explicit reference to the 2030 Agenda – thereby recognising the close links between the two. The fact that the 2030 Agenda contains a specific climate action goal (SDG 13) is another indication of the interdependence of the two documents.

The 2030 Agenda contains many goals relating to issues outside the climate sector. At the same time, a number of SDGs incorporate climate change mitigation as a goal: for example, urban development (SDG 11) is linked to the expansion of lower-emission public transport. Conversely, action designed to help agriculture adapt to climate change tends to impact positively on food security (SDG 2) and poverty reduction (SDG 1).

The 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement thus highlight the fact that sustainable development, climate change mitigation and adaptation to climate change in fact form a single agenda: sustainable development makes societies more resilient to climate change and promotes the restructuring of national economies along climate-friendly lines, while without climate change mitigation and adaptation, progress towards development that has already been achieved may be undone and future progress put at risk.

Global partnership for action on climate goals

In concrete terms this means that future development must be 'climate-smart'. To this end, most countries have now specified Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are at the heart of the Paris Agreement. It is for this reason that Germany – with a number of other industrialised and developing countries, the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Resources Institute – has set up a global NDC Partnership.

The Partnership is intended to assist implementation of the Paris Agreement and support the efforts of poorer countries to make their climate and development goals compatible with each other, translate them into appropriate action and access development finance opportunities for this purpose.

The goal: a low-carbon economy

Decisive action is needed if the international community is to achieve its climate targets. Above all, the world must 'decarbonise' – that is, transition to a low-carbon economy. This is primarily a task for the energy sector, which is responsible for the majority of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. The global energy transition must involve the progressive phasing out of fossil fuels by 2050, large-scale expansion of renewables and major improvements in energy efficiency.

This energy transition needs to go hand in hand with a global transformation of transport systems. This can only be brought about through rigorous promotion of sustainable forms of transport, such as public transport, cycling and walking, and a shift to alternative vehicle propulsion systems.

Agriculture and forestry are also responsible for a significant proportion of emissions. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in these three sectors – energy, transport and agriculture – must therefore be a central pillar of international climate action and thus of German policy.

In concrete terms this involves accelerating the shift to energy from renewable sources such as sun and wind and doing more to promote efficient energy use. Climate-smart urban development and innovative infrastructure planning in urban centres can prevent additional emissions. At the same time, it is important to pursue the systematic conservation of forests in order to bind carbon. All of this takes place against a background of population growth in a world where – despite continuing efforts – one person in eight still lives on less than 1.9 US dollars per day.

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