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Significant Work Awaits US Cities to Achieve SDGs

By Caroline Mwanga with SDSN News

NEW YORK (IDN) – The 2019 US Cities Sustainable Development Report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s United States Network (SDSN USA) finds that there will be significant work to do across the board if the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 (SDGs) are to be achieved by 2030. This is the SDSN’s third city-level report ranking 105 US cities on progress towards realizing SDGs.

It shows that cities on average scored only 48.9%. In the 2019 Index, top-ranking San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California Metro Statistical Area (MSA) has an overall score of 69.7, meaning it is 69.7% of the way toward fully achieving the SDGs, according to the measures used in this index.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a comprehensive framework to achieve economic prosperity, flourishing people, and a healthy planet, developed through broad consultation led by the United Nations and adopted by 193 countries, including the United States, in September 2015.

Using 57 indicators collected across 15 of the 17 Goals, the report considers city performance across a wide-variety of sustainability topics, from incarceration to clean water, and from early education to sustainable transit. Of the nearly 6000 indicator scores, only 14% are “green,” or demonstrate “good performance”, underlying just how much work will be required to achieve the Goals.

The report provides an entry point into using the SDGs as a tool for interdisciplinary problem solving at the local level, and provides opportunities for comparison to other contexts, such as the State, Global, and European Cities indices. This database of indicators highlights sustainable development opportunities and successes in the U.S. at the city level, it provides a snapshot of where the 100+ largest U.S. cities stand on SDG achievement, and helps identify priorities for early action in each metropolitan area.

Additionally, the report includes a list of data gaps that are hindering cities’ and the federal government’s ability to effectively plan and achieve sustainable progress. Finally, it provides a pathway to considering equity and access across the goals using available data to consider the Leave No One Behind Agenda.

The SDSN USA is a network of researchers, knowledge creators and thought leaders connected together to mobilize expertise on the SDGs in the U.S. Officially launched on December 4, 2018, the SDSN USA has over 120 members from 41 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC. It joins the existing Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), headed by renowned American economist Jeffrey Sachs which spans six continents and draws upon the knowledge and educational capacity of over 1,000-member institutions.

The SDSN director Jeffrey Sachs points out that America’s cities are home to more than 80 percent of Americans and around 85 percent of U.S. production. They will determine the future of sustainable development in the United States, he says in Foreword to the report. “Around the U.S., more and more cities are signing up to the SDGs framework for action. As one leading example, my own city, New York City, is guided by the plan OneNYC 2050.”

This comprehensive sustainable development plan, closely aligned with the SDGs, aims to achieve an equitable, sustainable city for all New Yorkers by the year 2050, including the transformation to zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

The 2019 US Cities Sustainable Development Report aims to help cities to calibrate their progress towards the SDGs. This report, produced annually since 2017, is a part of a global effort to measure performance of cities, nations, and companies relative to the SDGs underway at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

This year’s report highlights the many urgent challenges facing America’s cities. The data show substantial and rising inequalities of income, persistent poverty, unsafe physical environments, and of course, the continued emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to human-induced climate change and that threaten humanity. “These indicators should provide flashing red lights to communities around the US to take actions at the local level to promote the SDGs, and to advocate for sustainable development policies at the federal and state level as well,” notes. [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 July 2019]

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