Countdown day 5 – SDG 13: Climate Action


To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there”.  Kofi Annan

Could you imagine a global pact for sustainability that didn’t include climate change?

Many agree that urgent action is needed to address drivers of climate change, if irreversible damage is to be avoided. As the XIV World Forestry Congress closed off last week in Durban, South Africa, as New York prepares for the SDG Summit in 2 weeks and as negotiations and plans accelerate in the lead-up to COP 21 in Paris, there is no doubt that climate change figures high on the global policy agenda. The task seems enormous, the obstacles many, the need acute and the fall-out enormously burdensome for those who can least afford it. Looking past the SDG Summit, the first test of the sustainable development era and the post-2015 Agenda will be the Paris COP. While the pressure and responsibility are high, the opportunities and potential synergies are also significant. UNDP’s Administrator Helen Clark is quoted as saying: “Investing in the wellbeing of our planet and halting climate change should not be seen as a ‘cost’ but as a worthwhile economic investment in its own right”.

In combination, population growth, climate change, growing urban areas, and the needs of agriculture and industry, are increasing pressure on and degrading productive land resources. Reversing these trends will call upon the skills, innovation and commitment of all but should also be fair, just and equitable. This means shifting the burden of impact from the poor and marginalized – including women, indigenous communities and small island states – all sitting on the frontline of climate and weather-shifts. To meet SDG 13 (“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”) we need to make climate-smart synonymous with people-smart. Why?

  • Climate variability and change is already affecting food production and could potential undermine food security (SDG Goal 2);
  • Potential shortages of food, water, safe shelter, desertification could drive conflict as well as waves of migration threatening the peace and resilience of societies (SDG Goal 16);
  • The burden of climate change may be commonly shared but is definitely differentiated – with a greater share borne by those who least contributed and who can least afford the losses it implies. Let “smart” therefore be defined by those most likely be affected.
  • Low-Carbon Cities are a USD$ 17 trillion opportunity[i] (SDG Goal 11).

2015 is therefore the year in which the global alliance for sustainable development needs to be inclusive, robust and visionary. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land uses represent 20-24% of total annual global emissions that contribute to climate change.[ii]. 45% of temperate deciduous forests and 27% of tropical forests have been cleared with the burden of responsibility thought to be borne historically by developed countries and by big business. Most of the estimated 500 million small farms are thought to be vulnerable to climate change and gender and climate change are two conditioning factors likely to shape agricultural futures.

We look forward to the day when the message from our campaign last year for COP 20 is no longer true!


In view of aligning the Post-2015 Agenda and its SDGs with a strong Climate Agreement, which will be determined by world leaders at COP 21 in Paris in December, a strategic campaign has been launched (“Road to Paris”) to provide practical and impactful solutions to help solve climate change and create awareness through in social media channels (#RoadToParis). Let’s work together to make everyone part of the global alliance for change, with the tools and resources they need to make a positive difference!

Receive more updates from the United Nations Climate Change Newsroom and get to know two interesting initiatives: The Climate Reality Project and Live Earth. Stay connected and discover the other goals that are aligned with SDG 13 at



[ii] IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (2014)

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