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Climate Change, COVID‑19 Pandemic Severely Affecting Implementation of 2030 Agenda, Speakers Underscore, as Second Committee Takes Up Sustainable Development Reports

The ravaging effects of climate change, exacerbated by lingering repercussions of the COVID‑19 pandemic, threaten achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals according to reports of the Secretary‑General presented by a number of speakers to the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.

Alexander Trepelkov, Officer‑in‑Charge of the Division for Sustainable Development Goals, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced reports under agenda item 19 on “Sustainable Development”.  In the report titled “Towards the achievement of sustainable development:  implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including through sustainable consumption and production, building on Agenda 21” (document A/75/269), he noted the impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic have paralysed large parts of the global economy and sharply restricted economic activities, severely affecting the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  “Worldwide consumption and production, a driving force of the global economy, continue to utilize the natural environment and resources with destructive impacts on the planet,” he stated.  Reaching the Goals will require an enabling environment based on preparedness and strong national capacities to address anticipated and unanticipated crises like the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Presenting the report on “Sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations” (document A/75/277), he said that body of water is an area with unique biodiversity and highly fragile ecosystems of a large number of small island developing States, which are vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events and are heavily dependent on marine environment.  Many of the countries in the wider Caribbean region have begun to rethink their development trajectories, focusing on policies that build resilience and contribute to sustainable development.

The representative of Maldives stated that tidal waves, sea swells and flooding “have become the new norm”, requiring immediate action.  Noting the country aims to rely on 70 per cent renewable energy by 2030, he affirmed that small island developing States need equitable and predictable finance, while middle‑income countries need unique concessional financing outside the paradigm of gross domestic product–based measurements.  Similarly, the Philippines delegate, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, stressed that region is one of the most disaster‑prone in the world, with six of the top 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change.

The representative of Morocco, speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, pointed out that Africa also confronts sea‑level rise amid its climate risks, making adequate and predictable funding critical for achieving the Goals.  Mozambique’s representative noted his country’s high vulnerability to climate‑related hazards, adding the COVID‑19 pandemic has severely impacted work to recover from the floods resulting from the cyclones of the last two years.  He called for partnerships that recognize the connections between all environmental and development challenges.

Jamil Ahmad, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, introducing the report on “Combating Sand and Dust Storms” (document A/75/278), stated there are still many uncertainties in the world’s understanding of the global dust cycle and its interactions with human society, with a very limited observational database both geographically and chronologically.  Sand and dust storms represent a significant transboundary hazard in numerous parts of the world, underscoring the need for strong partnership and the strengthening of subregional, regional and interregional cooperation.

Kazakhstan’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, stressed that the effects of the global climate crisis are becoming truly catastrophic.  He noted that 54 per cent of territory in landlocked developing countries is highly vulnerable to desertification, with 23 per cent of land classified as degraded, requiring targeted funding, and called for accelerated biodiversity action.

Similarly, Malawi’s delegate, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the poorest States are clearly being left behind in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.  Acknowledging progress in the science of desertification, land degradation and drought, he still called for an acceleration in the fight against both.  Fighting climate change requires deeper reduction targets and aid for the least‑developed countries, noting that they still lack adequate access to electricity and must develop sustainable sources.  China’s representative affirmed the need for global solidarity at this time of multidimensional challenges to development, stating his nation is providing billions of dollars in assistance and debt forgiveness for partner countries.

Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Disaster Risk Reduction, introduced the report on “Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030” (document A/75/226) noting that the COVID‑19 crisis has stalled or reversed progress in many countries and recommending recommitment to targets in national risk reduction by the end of 2020.  The report emphasizes the importance of monitoring, assessment in a multisectoral manner and the need for new strategies and legislative efforts within the Sendai Framework at the national and local levels.

Ecuador’s delegate asked Ms. Mizutori for additional views on the mid-term review of the Sendai Framework.  The Special Representative responded that 2023 should be the midpoint of the initiative, to take stock and identify gaps and remaining challenges.  Unfortunately, mortality and economic goals have gone off‑track and due to the coronavirus, as nothing harms development like disasters.

Mr. Trepelkov also presented the reports “Follow-up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (document A/75/273); “Harmony with Nature” (document A/75/266); and “Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” (document A/75/265).

The Committee also heard the introduction to the following reports:  “Secretary-General’s Report on the United Nations decade on desertification (document A/75/256); “Secretary‑General’s report on the United Decade for deserts and the Report on the fight against desertification” (document A/75/190); “Report of the Secretary‑General to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session on the work of the Convention on Biological Diversity” (A/75/256, sect.III); “International cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan” (document A/75/237); “Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development” (document A/75/257); “Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind — Outcomes of COP25 in Madrid”; and “Report of the Secretary‑General on the Oil slick on Lebanese shores” (document A/75/308).

Also speaking were the representatives of Guyana (on behalf of the Group of 77), Belarus, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Honduras, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Cuba, Singapore, Eritrea, Algeria, Thailand, Russian Federation, Syria, Malaysia, Iraq, Brazil, El Salvador, Nigeria, Myanmar, Moldova, Egypt, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 October, to continue its work.

For information media. Not an official record.