What the Paris Agreement Means for the Sustainable Development Goals

The signing of the Paris Climate Agreement today, on Earth Day, represents a global consensus that climate change has, and will continue, to fundamentally alter our natural systems and challenge our way of life unless we take collective and measured steps towards a carbon neutral path. Significantly, it comes on the heels of another monumental international agreement that recognizes the importance of climate change – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Climate change and poverty are inextricably linked. They are both part of a dynamic system where impacts from one can accelerate the other. While the priority of the SDGs is the eradication of poverty in all forms, the SDGs also set forth an agenda for the entire world to move toward a more resilient and sustainable future.

In the broadest sense, the Paris Agreement commits to limiting global warming to “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels,” with additional language that the parties will pursue even more ambitious limits of “1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.” Achieving these targets will require rapid and robust reductions in global emissions while increasing capacity to address the adverse impacts of climate change already felt around the world. The Paris Agreement and SDGs are closely integrated, and it is worth highlighting a few areas of overlap that capture the importance of an integrated approach and participation of all stakeholders.

First, Articles 7.1 and 7.5 of the Paris Agreement establish the goal of contributing to sustainable development through “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.” In addition, Article 7.5 underscores that successful adaptation should be an integrated, country-driven process that is gender-responsive and inclusive of vulnerable populations, communities, and ecosystems. These articles directly support SDGs 5 (Gender Equality), 13 (Climate Action), and 15 (Life on Land), and indirectly contribute to several others.

Second, Article 8 of the Paris Agreement emphasizes the importance of “integrated, holistic, and balanced non-market approaches” to the implementation of sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts. These include efforts to build adaptive capacity, enhance public and private participation, and encourage technology transfer, directly linking to SDGs 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 13 (Climate Action), and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

These examples only scratch the surface of the interconnectedness of these agendas. Poverty alleviation cannot be achieved without an ambitious and comprehensive climate agenda. To achieve the climate agenda, we need integrated, localized, and sustainable solutions to end poverty. Together, the Paris Agreement and SDGs provide the foundation on which to build a more sustainable future. One cannot be achieved without the other, and both must be grounded in innovation, integration, and iteration.

Representatives from over 150 countries are expected to gather in New York today to sign the Paris Agreement ushering in a new phase in the fight to alleviate poverty and protect our planet. Achieving these goals will require sustained momentum and engagement at every level. We have the foundation, now let’s get to work.

Kristin Dreiling is a manager in Chemonics’ Environment and Natural Resources Practice and supports USAID's Restoring the Environment through Prosperity, Livelihoods And Conserving Ecosystems (REPLACE) IDIQ.

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