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Farmers in a drought-stricken field in China. Farmers in a drought-stricken field in Changfeng county, Hefei city, Anhui province, China, Oct. 20, 2019 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

Climate Change Is Putting the SDGs Further Out of Reach

Monday, Aug. 23, 2021

This month’s harrowing report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has particularly disquieting implications for the world’s poor. Global warming and associated biodiversity loss will hinder progress toward each of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, a set of 17 internationally agreed objectives for advancing global prosperity, social welfare and environmental conservation through the end of the decade. COVID-19 has already dealt these aspirations a massive blow. But these pandemic setbacks pale in comparison to the long-term challenges that climate change presents for meeting and exceeding basic human needs, and placing developing countries on the path toward sustained—and sustainable—growth.

United Nations member states unanimously endorsed the SDGs in 2015. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals that preceded them, they offer a balanced vision of development resting on three interdependent pillars: economic, social and ecological. They are not modest. Among other ambitions, they envision eliminating poverty (SDG 1) and ending hunger (SDG 2) everywhere in the world by 2030—objectives that seem implausible. They are accompanied by a whopping 169 individual targets, to be assessed according to a sprawling list of 247 indicators. Despite these weaknesses, the SDGs have symbolic and substantive value as a banner and organizing framework around which a diverse range of global actors can rally. ...

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