A set of tasks for the coming years

The Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Wind wheel at sunrise

Just a few months 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 replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the year 2000. Unlike the MDGs, they take account not only of the social dimension of sustainable development but also of its economic and ecological dimensions. Another difference between the two is that the SDGs apply to every country in the world. With the 2030 Agenda, the international community has created a pact on the world's future that is to be implemented by industrialised and developing countries alike.

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

The 2030 Agenda contains many goals relating to issues that go beyond the climate sector. At the same time, several SDGs contribute to the achievement of climate change mitigation and adaptation goals. For instance, sustainable urban development (SDG 11) is linked to the development of lower-emission public transport. This also works the other way around: actions that are geared, for example, to climate change adaptation in agriculture usually have a positive impact on food security (SDG 2) and poverty reduction (SDG 1).

The 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement thus highlight the fact that sustainable development and climate change mitigation and adaptation 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, and climate change mitigation and adaptation are vital because in their absence, progress towards development that has already been achieved may be undone and future progress is put at risk.

Global partnership for the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions

In practical terms, this means that 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. In response, Germany – with many other industrialised and developing countries, the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Resources Institute – launched a global NDC Partnership in 2016.

The Partnership is intended to act as a driver for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. It supports the efforts of poorer countries to harmonise their climate and development goals, translate them into appropriate action and access climate and 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. In particular, this is 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, a massive increase in the use of renewables, and major improvements in energy efficiency. The example of Germany shows that an energy transition is possible and has a positive impact in terms of growth and employment. This has also been confirmed by a recent study of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It shows that, in G20 countries, large-scale investment in climate action can lead to a higher gross domestic product, both in the short term and in the long term.

As part of this energy transition, a global transformation of transport systems is needed. This can only be brought about through systematic support for sustainable forms of transport, such as public transport, cycling and walking, and a shift to alternative fuel vehicles. The agricultural and forestry sectors are also significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, especially as a result of the conversion of forests into farmland, but also through greenhouse gas emissions from farming activities.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is supporting the efforts of its partner countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the areas of energy, urban development, transport and agriculture and forestry. In concrete terms, this involves a gradual shift to energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal power and efforts for increased energy efficiency. Emissions can also be prevented through climate-smart urban development and innovative infrastructure planning in urban centres. At the same time, it is important to pursue the systematic conservation of forests in order to facilitate carbon sequestration.

All of this has to happen in a context of global population growth in a world where – despite continuing efforts – one person in eight still lives on less than 1.90 US dollars per day.

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