Climate change threatens progress across sustainable development, warns new UN report
Four years into the Sustainable Development Goals, progress has been made in some areas, but monumental challenges remain
New York, 9 July 2019 – The impacts of climate change and increasing inequality across and within
countries are undermining progress on the sustainable development agenda, threatening to reverse
many of the gains made over the last decades that have improved people’s lives, warns the United
Nations’ latest report on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Launched on the opening day of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, a critical
annual stocktaking event, the report, which is based on the latest available data, remains the
cornerstone for measuring progress and identifying gaps in the implementation of all 17 Sustainable
Four years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals — the world’s blueprint for a fairer
and healthier planet — the report notes progress in some areas, such as on extreme poverty reduction,
widespread immunization, decrease in child mortality rates and increase in people’s access to electricity,
but warns that global response has not been ambitious enough, leaving the most vulnerable people and
countries to suffer the most.
Among the key findings:
• Increasing inequality among and within countries requires urgent attention, the report warns.
Three quarters of stunted children live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa; extreme
poverty is three times higher in rural areas than urban areas; young people are more likely to be
unemployed than adults; only a quarter of people with severe disabilities collect a disability
pension; and women and girls still face barriers to achieving equality.
• The year 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record. Levels of carbon dioxide concentrations
continued to increase in 2018. Ocean acidity is 26% higher than in pre-industrial times and is
projected to increase by 100% to 150% by 2100 at the current rate of CO2 emissions.
• The number of people living in extreme poverty declined from 36% in 1990 to 8.6% in 2018, but
the pace of poverty reduction is starting to decelerate as the world struggles to respond to
entrenched deprivation, violent conflicts and vulnerabilities to natural disasters.
• Global hunger has been on the rise after a prolonged decline.
UN PRESS RELEASE
“It is abundantly clear that a much deeper, faster and more ambitious response is needed to unleash the
social and economic transformation needed to achieve our 2030 goals,” said United Nations SecretaryGeneral António Guterres.
The lack of progress is particularly apparent among environment-related Goals such as climate action
and biodiversity. Other major reports launched recently by the Organization have also warned of
unprecedented threat to biodiversity1 and the urgent need to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C
above pre-industrial levels2
“The natural environment is deteriorating at an alarming rate: sea levels are rising; ocean acidification is
accelerating; the last four years have been the warmest on record; one million plant and animal species
are at risk of extinction; and land degradation continues unchecked,” the Secretary-General added.
The impacts of environmental deterioration are taking a toll on people’s lives. Extreme weather
conditions, more frequent and severe natural disasters and the collapse of ecosystems are causing
Increased food insecurity and are ill worsening people’s safety and health, forcing many communities to
suffer from poverty, displacement and widening inequalities.
The clock for taking decisive actions on climate change is ticking, cautions the UN Under-SecretaryGeneral for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, stressing the importance of strengthening
international cooperation and multilateral action to confront the monumental global challenges.
“The challenges highlighted in this report are global problems that require global solutions,” said Mr.
Liu. “Just as problems are interrelated, the solutions to poverty, inequality, climate change and other
global challenges are also interlinked.”
Despite the threats, the report demonstrates that valuable opportunities exist to accelerate progress by
leveraging the interlinkages across Goals. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, goes handin-hand with creating jobs, building more livable cities, and improving health and prosperity for all.
The United Nations will host the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Action Summits as well as
other crucial meetings during the high-level week of the 74th Session of the General Assembly in
September, to reenergize world leaders and the global community, get the world back on track and kickstart a decade of delivery for people and planet.
ABOUT THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS REPORTS
The annual reports provide an overview of the world’s implementation efforts to date, highlighting
areas of progress and where more action needs to be taken. They are prepared by the UN Department
of Economic and Social Affairs, with input from international and regional organizations and the United
Nations system of agencies, funds and programmes. Several national statisticians, experts from civil
society and academia also contribute to the reports.
For more information, please visit: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/
ABOUT THE HIGH-LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM
Called the largest annual gathering on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal, the
annual High-level Political Forum brings together leaders from different sectors of society. This year, the
Forum, which is convened by the UN Economic and Social Council, will take place from 9 to 18 July. The
ministerial segment will be from 16 to 18 July and the Forum will host more than 80 ministers as well as
nearly 160 side events over ten days.
For more information, please visit: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/hlpf
UN Department of Global Communications
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UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
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