Image source: The Jakarta Post. - Photo: 2024

Resources and New Forms of Governance Are Needed to Achieve SDGs

By Simone Galimberti*

KATHMANDU, 27 February 2024 (IDN) — To help understand the abysmal state of affairs in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) around the world, it might be helpful to recall a major report published last year, which went primarily unnoticed by policymakers.

It might also be valuable to refer to a recent European Union gathering of Ministers for Competitiveness in Belgium, where former President of the European Central Bank and former Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi was the key guest.

Though not directly related, both offer some critical insights on what it will take to realize the future we want in a sustainable and equitable planet instead of consistently warming towards self-destruction.

Most importantly, both offer a clear vision of what it will take to achieve the Agenda 2030. Both also indicate an urgent need to review and revamp the governance systems that rule our lives.

The Global Sustainable Development Report 2023 indicates the six indispensable transformations required if we want to ensure our species’ survivability and ways humans can continue to thrive on a much more sustainable Planet Earth.

Human well-being and capabilities, sustainable and just economies, food systems and nutrition patterns, energy decarbonization and universal access, urban and peri-urban development, and the global environmental commons are the key pathways where drastic, urgent and bold actions must be taken.

These pathways were already identified in the 2019 edition of the same report, but last year’s edition also added two enabling factors: capacity building and governance.

It is self-evident that any bold undertaking in one of these six areas would require enormous resources, not only a massive injection of public money but also never-imagined contributions by the financial market and private sector.

Here, the Competitiveness Ministerial meeting held in Ghent on 23 and 24 February enters the picture.

Relatively low-profile and informal, the event saw Mr Draghi sharing some of his observations on what the EU requires to do to succeed and thrive over the complexities of the following decades in a shift towards a net zero economy.

Huge Funds required

At the same time, Mr Draghi’s message was simple but also a daunting one. Put it in simple terms, the EU will require an “enormous amount of money in a relatively short time”, as the European edition of Politico reported it.

The former central banker and head of government were not directly referring to the Agenda 2030. Yet it is self-evident that the resources required by the EU to brave the storm coming from these drastic and radical changes will directly contribute to the implementation of the SDGs at its core.

That’s why António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, called for an SDGs stimulus equivalent to US$500 billion a year, which is so important and should not be discounted.

If you think about the amount of money Mr Draghi was referring to for the EU to be capable of competing and thrive in the following decades, the figure proposed by Mr Guterres is almost trivial.

Only for the EU, the amount proposed by Mr Draghi is €500 billion a year. The challenge in fighting climate warming does not relate only to the massive investments in mitigation, essentially all the measures from zero fossil fuel transportation to less damaging food systems that will help cut the existing global carbon emissions.

It is also about the resources needed for mitigation. A report published by UNEP in November last year identifies a US$194-366 billion gap annually. Then, there are the efforts in the field of biodiversity preservation.

Ensuring biodiversity

Still below the radar compared to the discussions on climate, ensuring the planet’s biodiversity in a way that does not harm locals, especially the indigenous people inhabiting it, remains paramount.

Remarkably, the COP 28 on Climate held in Dubai recognized biodiversity’s role in the fight against global warming. This is a crucial year because the international community, for the first time after approving the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in 2022, will meet in a new session of the biannual Conference of Party to the Convention of Biological Diversity.

To be held in October in Cali, Colombia, the COP 16 will see government members of the convention present their national action plans on how to implement the new framework. One of the key priorities will be to “mobilize and bolster the means of implementation”. In official jargon, this can mean many daunting and expensive things.

“Adequate means of implementation, including financial resources, capacity-building, technical and scientific cooperation, and access to and transfer of technology constitute essential means to implement the Biodiversity Plan fully”, explains the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

According to a recent report by the Guardian, Susana Muhamad, Colombia’s environment minister, intends to ensure that “the next round of global biodiversity negotiations will put nature at the heart of the international environment agenda”. All this will cost a lot of money.

One of the major problems is not just the lack of these resources but also the fact that gigantic amounts of money are being spent in the opposite direction. The State of Finance for Nature 2023, another critical publication by UNEP, stated that “close to a trillion is invested globally each year in activities that have a direct negative impact on nature from both public and private sector sources”.

This, according to the report, is “equivalent to roughly 7 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP)”. The bottom line is not that governments and financial markets need to be extremely serious and audacious but also creative in coming up with all the resources we need.

Just imagine if € 500 billion a year is what the EU needs to win over the challenges ahead; what about other regions?

According to a report by PwC, the global consulting firm, the Asia Pacific’s “annual clean energy investments need to more than double from US$62.3 billion in 2022 to US$138.6 billion during the years 2026–2030 and US$165.8 billion during the years 2031–2035”.

According to new research, Africa alone will need US$ 2.8 trillion U.S. dollars for such transformation. The World Bank, in a 2022 research focused on South Africa alone, predicts that “estimated total investments needed for country’s pathways to net-zero at USD$500 billion by 2050.”

Mind-blowing amounts

While it is hard to come up with the correct estimates, we are talking about mind-blowing amounts. Let’s remember that these amounts do not include resources for human development, public education and public health services.

The cost of these alone will, undoubtedly, be hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Yet, finding the resources alone is not the only solution.

We must also rethink how governments work, act and relate with the people. That’s why governance is seen in the Global Sustainable Development Report 2023 as an indispensable enabler for the transformations required.

As we witness the farmers’ protests throughout Europe, many trade-offs are occurring through these unfolding mega-changes. Rethinking governance not only in terms of policies and legislation can be a solution to these problematic bargains.

Policies and legislation must surely be able to do a better job of finding the proper balance between future benefits and immediate sacrifices to be experienced by those directly impacted by the unfolding changes.

But alone, they won’t be enough. We must devise new mechanisms that empower people beyond periodically casting ballots. The era of net-zero will require a transformation in the use of public and private financing and a radical overhaul in the way government works.

The latter must be capable of proposing new ideas and, at the same time, able to offset any pitfalls stemming from them. It also needs to formulate new venues for people to express their voices through proper deliberations based on reason.

A novel way of governance will also have to capacitate and empower citizens to have an actual say in the decision-making along the more traditional elections in the North and the South.

*Simone Galimberti writes about sustainable development, youths and the UN. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Image source: The Jakarta Post.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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