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WWF and the Sustainable Development Goals

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In September 2015, the Member States of the UN agreed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to address economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced and integrated manner. Included are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 targets, most of which have a deadline of 2030, though 21 expire in 2020 or have no explicit deadline.

There are 12 targets that integrate elements of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.  These 12 targets fall within five goal areas - SDG 2 (Food security), SDG 6 (Water and Sanitation), SDG 12 (Consumption and Production), SDG 14 (Life in Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land). Alignment with existing UN agreements is an important feature of the SDGs and supports greater policy coherence and integration across UN frameworks.

Given that most of these targets will not be achieved by 2020, a clear process is required to extend efforts to 2030.  New targets must drive delivery on the environment-related SDGs - without success on this front, the delivery of all the other SDGs will be threatened. 

The road to 2030

The UN’s High-Level Political Forum meets annually to review both the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. In 2017, six goals falling under the banner of Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world were reviewed.

In July 2018, the progress of five further goals will be evaluated – namely:

  • 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 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • 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 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development (reviewed every year)

In 2019, the final five goals will be reviewed at the HLPF on Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. A decision on the process to review the 2020 targets under the SDGs needs to take place in either the 73rd Session (2019) or the 74th Session (Sep 2020) of UNGA. 

The deadline of 21 SDG targets in 2020 represents the first real political challenge to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The decision on updating these targets ultimately lies with UN Member States meeting in the General Assembly.

At the same time, in October 2020 at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the CBD, Parties are expected to agree on a post-2020 framework that will include a set of targets to succeed the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Preparatory work to define the new targets will start in 2018.

It will be important to align the UNGA process and the CBD post-2020 targets to ensure a coordinated set of goals moving towards 2030.

HLPF 2018: The actions WWF recommends governments take

  • Adopt and enforce national guidelines for freshwater ecosystem management to protect and restore wetlands, rivers and aquifers and other natural systems that contribute to surface water and groundwater quality
  • Combine nature-based solutions with traditional grey infrastructure to reduce costs and improve water-related risk management
  • Recognise and explore the need for innovative financing mechanisms for the water and sanitation sectors
  • Promote the principles of water stewardship with respect to keeping the world’s rivers pollution free
  • Transform agricultural policy to improve productivity and efficiency in agriculture through practices that protect biodiversity and ecosystems through sustainable use of resources.

  • Promote access to clean and affordable renewable energy in developing countries (in line with the dramatic fall in the costs of wind, solar and battery technology)
  • Increase efforts to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by developing clear roadmaps and well-designed policies to achieve subsidy removal without affecting the poor
  • Develop national energy plans/strategies that phase out coal and implement a renewable power mix (hydro, solar, wind etc.), focusing on both centralized and decentralized options addressing poverty reduction as a major focus of energy strategies
  • Support bioenergy production that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable

  • Restore, protect and conserve nature within and beyond city boundaries, to ensure that cities can continue to rely on essential ecosystem services, including fresh water, food, and resilience against climate change climate-related hazards and natural disasters
  • Maximise the use of nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches by cities, in conjunction with built solutions to adapt to climate change, especially to protect the poorest and most vulnerable residents
  • Provide technical, resource and capacity support to cities and local governments so that they can lead the development of sustainable urban environments through integrated cross-sectoral planning
  • Create compact and connected urban areas, promote clean, renewable energy and efficient energy to power the built environment and urban transport, and implement efficient waste management systems
  • Ensure that national, regional and municipal land-use planning incorporates biodiversity and ecosystem services, especially to better manage urban expansion near Protected Areas
  • Increase access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy for cities in developing countries

  • Promote new consumption patterns and consumer choices that are plant based and non-petrol based
  • Create an enabling environment for better production and consumption including strong legislative and policy frameworks that halt deforestation and conversion of natural habitats, while ensuring the proper implementation of existing and future laws
  • Promote reform in the private sector towards more sustainable production methods and sustainable financing through supportive regulatory frameworks, policy and incentives
  • Increase productivity and efficiency in food production through sustainable agriculture and protecting the rights and livelihoods of smallholder food producers
  • Consider using the uptake of credible sustainability standards and certification as robust indicators for target 12.6 which urges business to adopt more sustainable practices
  • Improve the availability of information about sustainable products and diets
  • Establish national strategies to reduce food waste and losses and establish a monitoring system
  • Develop a new legally binding multilateral agreement to combat plastic pollution

  • Integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services into all policy areas and promote nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction;
  • Protect high conservation value forests to ensure survival of species and combat climate change
  • Ensure horizontal and vertical policy coherence at all levels, including through the alignment of targets, indicators, reporting and financing mechanisms with other frameworks (e.g.when SDG 15 targets expire in 2020 it will be critical to align new ones with the new CBD global targets)
  • Promote sustainable agriculture to ensure zero hunger and resilient societies;
  • Recognise that biodiversity and its eco-services are essential to the realisation of human rights, such as the right to water
  • Value biodiversity in providing resources and services that are essential to our health
  • Involve Indigenous and local communities in biodiversity conservation and restoration strategies to ensure their success and leave no one behind in our efforts to building resilient societies

  • Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development at all levels. This includes the application of policy coherence tools to support decision making at all levels Integrate biodiversity and ecosystems protection into subnational, national economic and sectoral development policies
  • Make faster progress in defining and applying alternative measures of progress beyond GDP to guide policymaking and development plans towards improved wellbeing and sustainable development
  • Enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of public, public-private and civil society partnerships based on principles of good governance; openness accountability, transparency, economic efficiency, and fairness and with the adequate integration of economic, social and environmental safeguards
  • Enhance international support and mobilize resources for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national and local plans to implement the sustainable development goals in an integrated manner
  • Enhance the transfer of environmentally sound and socially appropriate technologies and related know-how to developing countries on favourable terms

Case studies: What WWF is doing

WWF works at both a global and national level to with governments, private sector and consumers to address the governance challenges affecting development and advocate for sustainable decision-making.

In the Inuit communities of Arviat and Igloolik, northern Canada, WWF is working closely with organisations, governments and communities to keep citizens and polar bears safe by reducing encounters between polar bears and communities.

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The Inirida Fluvial Star in Colombia is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. For the past nine years, WWF has facilitated co-operation between local government authorities and 12 communities to promote the sustainable management of the area.

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In the Democratic Republic of Congo, WWF has worked with the Ministry of Rural Development to design a tool for indigenous and local communities to monitor progress on SDGs implementation. The tool helps local and indigenous communities collect data which is used to inform policy analysis at the provincial and national levels.

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Over the past two years, WWF has brought together 10 UK companies buying leather in India, to form the Leather Buyers’ Platform. This Platform is improving water quality along the Ganga River by reducing pollution from local tanneries and promoting sustainable leather production.

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For the past 11 years, WWF has partnered with local communities and the Government of Nepal Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) to deliver a programme promoting sustainable water management.

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Cities are the front line of tackling climate change. In 2011, WWF launched the One Planet City Challenge initiative which invites cities to publicly report on their contributions to global climate targets. The initiative has increased the amount of quality data available on cities’ contribution to national and global action on climate change

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Zambia is ranked as one of the countries with the highest food security problems. The Western Provinces is one of the most remote areas of the country, with a very high variability of rainfall. For the past five years, WWF Zambia has trained 2.500 families of smallholder farmers on Conservation Agriculture. The main focus is to increase natural soil fertility, avoid shifting cultivation and halt human-wildlife conflict.

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In 2015, WWF started working with biscuit producer Bahlsen to make its palm oil supply chains sustainable and transparent from the small, local farmers in Sabah through to the refineries in Europe and ultimately to Bahlsen itself. By using better planting material and with good fertiliser management, smallholder farmers can also increase their yields and maintain the fertility of their soils for a long time.

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Over the past five years, WWF has supported conservation agriculture in the Atlantic Forest ecoregion in Paraguay through the cultivation of Yerba Mate, or Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis) concentrate extract in form of edible powder. The farming techniques used for Yerba Mate help protect and restore the Atlantic forest, watersheds, and its species.

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The Sustainable Consumption and Production Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines (SCP TIP) project aims to improve capacity to integrate SCP principles in politics, private businesses and civil society as a means for living up to national climate strategies. Through the whole campaign, multi-sectoral awareness on the environmental impacts of the food service industry is created, and ways to reduce this footprint are demonstrated, across South East Asia

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There has never been a more globally important set of aims than the ones behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each SDG has specific aims and targets, but it’s important to understand them as part of an indivisible, interlinked package. Taking a holistic view of the SDGs in the spotlight at HLPF 2018 will allow stakeholders to benefit from potential synergies and advance objectives in several areas at once.

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Opinion pieces

The average person thinks about the value of land in dollar terms because we are conditioned to think of land as a tradeable commodity, yet its value goes far beyond a dollar sign. Land is black gold, quite literally supporting our livelihoods. It is the resource on which nearly all of the world’s economies have grown and thrived. But we are depleting it at an alarming rate.

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With this year’s UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) to review the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) starting next week, it’s timely to reflect on some critical aspects regarding the need for integration in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

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Simply put, saving our planet is a formidable challenge. It requires an integrated approach and a good understanding of the trade-offs involved. It is a big, complicated and, frankly, scary topic but one that we can't shy away from. There are many complex solutions that can be applied but, in some ways, sustainability is as easy as one, two, three.

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In fewer than 900 days, the world will have halted deforestation, taken urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity, and ensured that ecosystems are being conserved, restored and sustainably used. So how is it going? Not too well, unfortunately. This should set alarm bells ringing. Failure to meet these targets wouldn’t simply be a setback towards achieving SDG 15. It would also threaten our ability to meet the other SDGs.

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Water is key to the success of all the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and therefore essential for delivering on the 2030 Agenda that aims to transform our world into the future we want. To achieve this, a new way of managing water is needed, to make societies more resilient, sustainable and inclusive. This open letter calls for action and takes a closer look at how this can be achieved.

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The 2018 UN High-Level Political Forum to review the SDGs is underway and next week 47 countries will present voluntary national reviews, to demonstrate their progress in meeting goals 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15. However, we can not expect governments alone to achieve the goals. We need to go a step further — we must coalesce to drive success.

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