Making SDG reporting climate-smart and climate-ambitious

13 July 2017

At this year’s UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), countries will present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) which outline their national approach and progress towards implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. This is the second round of reporting on SDG progress, and the number of countries presenting has doubled from 22 in 2016 to 44 in 2017.

Positively, the recognition of the linkages between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change has increased over the last 18 months. CARE and WWF regard the two agreements as “twin tracks” for developing sustainably and equitably in a carbon-constrained world. Climate change is front and centre in the SDGs, with a specific goal and also targets linked to climate change under many of the goals. Implementing the SDGs and the Paris Agreement requires an integrated approach, that prioritises actions that deliver on both agreements, and takes into account the strong legal standing of the Paris Agreement through countries’ ratification processes.

National SDG reports can do better to address the climate change SDG nexus

However, research undertaken by the authors [PDF] suggests that there is much more that countries can do to address the climate change and sustainable development nexus in their national reports for the HLPF. Although this research only covers the 2016 reports, a number of lessons and recommendations can be drawn. The analysis shows that the approaches countries have taken varies significantly.

In 2016 some countries did not address climate change in the executive summaries of their voluntary national reviews at all. However, some then go on to pay significantly more attention in their full reports, while others do not include climate change in either the summary or full report.

A few countries, for example Mexico, Montenegro, South Korea and Uganda, described in detail how climate change has been or is going to be integrated across policy frameworks as part of the implementation of the SDGs.

Some countries referenced the official Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (as the future main climate change related policy objectives) they submitted into the Paris Agreement process, but often on a very minimal level without providing further details on the linkages to the country’s sustainable development efforts. This has been the case in the reports from Colombia, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Togo, for example. 

Aspects of SDG 13, the Climate Change goal, are addressed in most of the 22 country reports from 2016, ranging from a minimal reference to more in-depth elaboration; a number of countries have taken the approach to elaborate on each SDG, and in some cases this includes specific linkages to climate change within various SDGs (such as hunger, gender equality, water or ecosystems). Good practice examples include France, Germany, Montenegro, Uganda and Norway.

Very few reports pay specific attention to the consideration of different population groups who are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts in line with the vision of Leave No One Behind, a central principle of the SDGs. 

Some countries elaborate on the institutional mechanisms identified to implement the SDGs, with a few detailing how climate change and climate change-specific institutions feature in this work. Particular examples are Mexico, Montenegro, Philippines and Sierra Leone. 

Various countries address “Means of Implementation” (both “developed” and “developing” countries), with some also including details on climate change related support and support needs.

5 key aspects for addressing climate change in the national SDG reports

There are a number of steps that countries should clearly consider when developing their next reporting activities to the international community on their SDG implementation.

  1. It is important to consider climate change at the planning stage for VNRs, engaging government officials working on climate change as well as civil society and other stakeholders focusing on climate issues. 
  2. Countries should consider how climate change is being addressed or any adverse impacts not only in the climate goal but in all the different goals. Consideration should be given, where possible, to impacts in relation to different scenarios for global warming (e.g. 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees, 3 or more degrees) as these may significantly impact a country’s attainment of sustainable development in the long run. This also relates to the links between climate change and the Leave No One Behind agenda, and what a country is doing to address these intersecting vulnerabilities. 
  3. Use Goal 13 as the entry point for the Nationally Determined Contributions and display how their key elements (including targets) link with other SDGs identified as critical in the country. 
  4. It is important to have a statement in the summary of the report on the links being made between climate change, climate action and the achievement of the SDGs, complementing any more detailed elaboration in the full reports. 
  5. Countries should not avoid challenging areas in reporting. The integrated nature of the SDGs is one of the most challenging, and potentially most transformational, aspects of Agenda 2030. Sharing experiences on challenges such as integrating climate change adds to the value of VNRs.

Bond runs a Sustainable Development Goals group focusing on advocacy, communications and engagement around the SDGs. Click here for more information.

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.

Sven Harmeling
CARE International

Sven Harmeling is responsible for developing and coordinating CARE’s advocacy and policy work relating to climate change.