Climate change and Sustainable Development Goals: a complicated love story.

This COP23 can be considered a COP of transition, from a world without Paris Agreement to a world that is working to implement it. And if the world is looking at 2020, when the agreement drafted at COP21 should become completely effective, another date to look at is 2030.

2030 may seem way too far in the future, but not when we start talking about fighting climate change. Especially when connecting the dots between two major goals which the United Nations are tackling in these recent years: fighting climate change and achieving the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, which has been a huge topic at COP since Paris in 2015, has been drawn by the UN General Assembly in the September of 2015, as the “sequel” of the Millennium Goals drafted in 2000. As the previous agenda, the States Parties are given an ultimatum of fifteen years to achieve the goals. And many of them directly involve climate change.

But the fight of climate change does not have to be considered just a sub-category of the SDGs. When we link the two matters together, indeed things get complicated. Every goal is highly correlated to another, and negotiations become particularly tricky.

As Dr. Maria Amparo Martinez Arroyo (General Director of the Mexican National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change and member of the Mexican delegation to the COP) pointed out, when it comes to climate change and the SDGs, research and decision ask for the inclusion of a range of different knowledges, from science to economics, from politics to law. The first step towards effective negotiations would therefore be the presence of diverse expertises within the negotiators. Moreover, particularly when tackling sustainable development, it becomes fundamental to include traditional knowledge and let the communities have a say.

The Kenyan Charles Tonui, of the African Center for Technology Studies, works for this in the African continent, promoting the translation of scientific data in a language that communities can understand, especially when it comes to adaptation and development. Communities are then able to build the expertise necessary to be effectively involved afterwards in the decision process.

With this need to involve more the local communities agrees Dr Asun St. Clair, Norwegian representative among the UNFCCC, who straightforwardly stated that “in the climate research, human beings are missing, and that is a huge gap.” Considering that when fighting climate change we are not fighting for the existence of the planet itself, but for the survival of human and animal species on this planet, SDGs become a fundamental tool in order to keep in mind the needs of the people and of the communities from different areas all around the world. The search for climate sustainability should not put at risk the survival of local communities, tradition and indigenous knowledge. As it should not endanger the economy of a region either: according to St. Clair, companies should not be damaged by policies supporting SDGs and should see these as the enemy but instead should find the perfect way to gain money while acting in a sustainable way. Once more, it is therefore absolutely important to create connections and partnerships within different actors to achieve the goals and tackle climate change.

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