Climate change is having devastating effects on low-lying atolls in the Pacific.

Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Climate change and SDGs: what are the links?

8 October 2015
Author: Ruth Fuller

This post was oringinally published on the WWF blog on 28 September 2015.

At the end of September in New York, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to end poverty, hunger, injustice and environmental destruction. The aim is sustainable development that benefits everyone without wrecking the planet.

The set of SDGs is in itself is a great achievement, one which WWF can be really proud to have contributed towards. However, this is only the beginning of a process and without governments' implementing the goals, these well meaning words won’t bring the real change we need.

WWF supporters with end poverty banners at a #LightTheWay rally

Illuminated #LightTheWay campaign banners. Photo: WWF-UK

One of the first tests that will show how serious world leaders are is the Paris climate conference in December. World leaders will meet to discuss and agree a climate deal, which we hope will be ambitious and fair. Following that, we’ll need action to change how we run our economies, how we conduct international trade, and how we manage our natural resources.

One of the newly adopted goals is tackling climate change – but how exactly is climate change linked to development? The connection between climate change and all the SDGs runs deep:

1. Climate change makes existing problems much much worse

Imagine different global challenges as fires burning – issues like poverty, conflict, refugees, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and natural disasters. Adding climate change into the mix is like throwing petrol on all of those fires – making them burn faster and making them much harder to control.

2. The impacts of climate change depend on the level of warming

The impacts of climate change are already being felt. But they become much worse the hotter it gets! This is why we’re is calling for governments to keep global warming well below 1.5 degrees.

3. Climate change is impacting the poorest first and worst

The poorest people have done the least to cause climate change in the first place. But they are feeling the brunt of its impacts because they often depend directly on natural resources for their livelihoods, have the least ability to respond to climate change and often live in more marginal areas.

4. We are all, rich and poor, being impacted by climate change

Although climate change has the biggest impact on the poor it affects everyone. Climate change is not a future problem it is a current problem. Effects are happening now: changes to weather patterns, sea level rises, changes to the distribution of plant and animal species, reduced access to water, and social impacts like food prices, increased conflict and migration.

5. We all have a responsibility to tackle climate change and support those impacted by climate change

This needs to be reflected in the lifestyle choices we make, the actions of our leaders and the financial commitments from the UK government.

6. Like many aspects of poverty, climate change is a political and economic problem

Climate change is often portrayed as an environmental problem. But actually it is the result of how our economies are structured and fuelled. And responding to those challenges requires political and economic solutions.

The SDGs can make a difference

If we approach climate change as a political and economic problem then the SDGs offer a lot of solutions. If the SDGs are genuinely implemented in all countries we will go a long way to solving the climate crisis, as they would refocus our economies towards being more sustainable and using cleaner energy.

The challenge is to make sure there is enough political will to implement all the goals and targets in the SDGs, and to make sure that there is a strong agreement at the UNFCCC talks in Paris. We will be playing our role to make sure both these things happen.

We want to do our bit to make sure that 2015 really is the turning point. This year could be the year when humanity chose a different future, a future that is safe, fair and sustainable – let’s make it happen!

About the author

Ruth Fuller

Ruth is international development policy adviser at WWF-UK where she focuses on the links between poverty, natural resources and climate change. Ruth is also co-chair of the Bond SDGs group.