Asia-Pacific may achieve just 10% targets of sustainable development goals: UN report

Only 9 / 104 targets achievable by 2030 at current pace: UN report

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Tuesday 16 March 2021
Asia-Pacific may achieve just 10% targets of sustainable development goals

The Asia-Pacific region is not on track to achieve any of the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030, said a new UN report. At the current pace, the region may achieve less than 10 per cent of the SDG targets.

Out of 104 measurable targets of the SDGs, the region is on track to reach only nine by 2030, according to the report titled Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report, 2021 by UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The region’s progress has been too slow on half of the goals in Asia-Pacific and many were stalled at levels well below the 2020 milestone, the report added.

Among these, the progress on environmental goals has been very disappointing, showed the report.

Other goals where the region fell abysmally short of expectations were gender equality (Goal 5), clean water and sanitation (Goal 6), affordable and clean energy (Goal 7), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), and life on land (Goal 15).

Climate action and life below water

The dismal performance on goals for climate action (Goal 13) and life below water (Goal 14) is of special concern. In fact, the situation is now worse than it was in 2000.

All five regions — east and north-east Asia, north and central Asia, south-east Asia, south and south-west Asia and the Pacific — have shown regressing trends for climate action and life below water.

Asia-Pacific region is responsible for more than half of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

The region continues to suffer from adverse impacts of natural disasters and is the most disaster-prone region in the world.

In 2020, the region faced a record number of climate-related disasters, affecting tens of millions of vulnerable people already hit hard by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to World Disasters Report 2020.

There has certainly been some progress on protecting the coastal areas but economic benefits from sustainable fisheries and the quality of oceans have been on the decline.

It is not on track to achieve any of the targets for clean water and sanitation.

The biggest hurdle for the region is water stress, where the situation has significantly worsened since 2000 and is likely to continue to regress unless collective action is taken.

Green recovery during pandemic

The region has made no progress on SDG goals for sustainable cities and communities since 2000. 

During the pandemic, too, it missed the opportunity to build back better. Large cities in the Asia-Pacific region produced 154 to 280 tonnes more medical waste per day than before the pandemic.

The COVID-19 related bio-medical waste generation in India increased from 3,025 tonnes in June, 2020 to 4,527 tonnes in December 2020, according to the Central Pollution Control Board.

Addressing data-deficit

Nearly 40 per cent of the SDG targets cannot be measured for the Asia-Pacific region due to the lack of data. The goals for climate action and life under water were among the most “data-poor”.

So, more must be done to address data deficiency for better assessment of the environmental goals.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations under-secretary-general and ESCAP executive secretary, said:

Recovery measures are an excellent opportunity for us to rethink our options for development pathways that are inclusive, more resilient and respect planetary boundaries.

Nations must ensure that their responses to the pandemic accelerate progress toward the 2030 agenda, the report said.

Hence, for post-covid recovery that is sustainable and inclusive, UNESCAP has urged governments to renew their commitments to the SDGs’ monitoring framework.

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