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Sustainable development goals (SDGs)

To celebrate the Millennium in 2000, the UN General Assembly agreed a set of eight Millennium Development goals (MDGs) , which involved primarily promoting sustainable development goals in developing countries to meeting human needs by 2015. The commitment entered into by the world’s leaders was “to spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty”.

In his summary of the achievements of the MDGs, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that ‘the world community has reason to celebrate. Thanks to the concerted efforts at all levels of society and governance, the MDGs have saved the lives of millions of people and improved living conditions for many more. The targeted interventions together with adequate resources and political have resulted in even the poorest countries making unprecedented progress”.

These successes include –

  • those suffering from extreme hunger and poverty have been halved in the past two decades, the number of undernourished people having decreased by 640 million to 795 million.
  • child mortality in the under-five age group declined by more than 50% and so did the number of deaths.
  • measles vaccination helped prevent nearly 16 million deaths and the proportion of children vaccinated increased from 75% to 84%.
  • the number of people with improved access to clean water increased by 1 billion (or 15% of the world population) over this period.
  • more than 900 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were delivered to malaria endemic centres in sub Saharan Africa resulting in 6 million fewer deaths of children primarily under the age of 5 years old.


These successful interventions led the world leaders at a special meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2015 to agree a new set of Sustainable Development Goals for the following 15 years from 2016 to 2030. Ban-Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General observed that “ we need to tackle root causes and do more to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development …. and to leave no one behind and to create a world of dignity for all”.

Climate change is but one of 17 SDGs but it will impact many of the other goals making these harder to achieve such as eliminating extreme poverty and hunger.


  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

Context of SDGs
This table summarises briefly the context of each of the SDGs

Sustainable development goal context
Sustainable development Helping others in need and leaving no one behind
Limiting climate change Limiting the rise in average global temperature to 1.5 C to avoid irreversible changes in climate
Using energy sustainably Reducing our own energy usage and converting from using fossil fuels to local renewable energy sources wherever possible
Ending poverty Ensuring all can access basic human needs such as food, clean water and energy
Ending hunger Improving food distribution and reducing poverty so food is available to all
Ensuring heathy lives Providing access to food and clean water, shelter and medical treatment when needed
Sustaining terrestrial ecosystems Preserving ecosystems to sustain species and promote biodiversity
Conserving marine resources Sustaining biodiversity to preserve species and preventing oceans becoming more acidic by limiting greenhouse gas emissions
Accessing clean water Increasing access to clean water and thereby reducing exposure to water borne diseases
Providing inclusive education Ensuring that education is available for all including opportunities for life long learning
AAchieving gender equality Recognising that all can contribute to their local communiy including caring for others both young and old
Consuming sustainably Consuming food sustainably to ensure that there is sufficient food for other who still go hungry
Promoting sustainable settlements Developing settlements which preserve biodiversity and use energy and resources in a sustainable way
Building resilient infrastructure Creating infrastructure which will be resilient to changes in climate and extreme weather events
Reducing inequality within and between countries Creating infrastructure which will be resilient to changes in climate and extreme weather events
Promoting sustainable economic growth Creating work which uses energy and resources in a sustainable way
Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies Reducing causes of conflict and helping refugees who have had to leave their homes because of warfare or changes in the environment
Creating global partnerships Increasing the number of global partnerships like Scouts for

SDGs and climate change
Though climate change is only one of the 17 SDGs, a changing climate will impact directly on seven other SDG goals making it much harder for these to be achieved. The impact of climate change on each of these SDGs and the benefits that will accrue from limiting climate change are summarised in the Tables below.

SDG Benefits of limiting climate change
Sustaining energy use Enables energy to be used more efficiently
Ending poverty and hunger Allows existing food production to be sustained and redistributed
Leading healthy lives Reduces impact of over heating and spread of disease
Accessing clean water Limits change in distribution of rainfall
Sustaining terrestrial ecosystems Helps to preserve existing ecosystems and sustaining biodiversity
Sustaining energy use Enables energy to be used more efficiently
Conserving oceanic resources Maintains existing food web through less acidification of the ocean
Building resilient infrastructure Facilitates building of resilient infrastructure

For each of these SDGs, the factors that impact them are described subsequently and what actions can be initiated to enable these goals to be achieved.



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