Asia-Pacific region 32 years behind 2030 target on achieving SDGs: UNESCAP

None of SDGs can be achieved by 2030; all targets under climate action goal (SDG 13) off-track, some even regressing

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Monday 19 February 2024
Climate goal has continued to regress, necessitating a reversal of the trend in order to meet the target, said the UNESCAP report. Photo: iStock

None of the 17 United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are on track in the Asia-Pacific region. At the current pace of growth, the region will not attain the 17 SDGs until 2062 or will be 32 years behind schedule, according to a new report by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) released February 15, 2024.

Just 11 per cent of the 116 measurable SDG targets (out of the total 169) are on track. By 2030, the region will achieve just one-third of the required progress if it continues on its current course, the report found.

“This marks a significant 32-year delay in their accomplishment,” Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the UNESCAP, stated in the report Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2024.

Of the 17 SDGs, the progress towards the goal of climate action (SDG 13) remains critically behind and requires the greatest attention. This is due to the fact that progress on all SDG 13 targets is stalled or reversed.

Twenty targets of fourteen SDGs, including SDG 13, have shown deterioration as compared to the 2015 baseline, the report said. 

Due to the ongoing regression of the climate goal, the report flagged the necessity of incorporating climate action into national policies, strengthening resilience and enhancing capacity to cope with climate-related disasters.

The countries were required to incorporate climate change measures into their national policies, strategies and planning in order to achieve climate target  SDG 13.2.

However, the climate goal has continued to regress, necessitating a reversal of the trend in order to meet the target, said the UNESCAP report.

Under the target SDG 13.1, the countries were supposed to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. But the progress made so far under this is not sufficient midway to the target year. So, the UN agency underscored the need to accelerate progress to achieve target

Since greenhouse gas emissions are still rising and the region is warming faster than the global average, it is essential to give climate action plans top priority.  These must be integrated with efforts to promote responsible production and the use of renewable energy.

SDG 13.1 and 13.2 are among the targets under SDG 13, which have data, allowing for measurable progress. However, progress towards the remaining targets — SDG 13.3, 13.a, and 13.b — could not be measured due to data gaps. 

As 2023 marks the halfway point to achieving the SDGs, measuring and monitoring targets become even more important.

Climate goal indicators lack data

The lack of data on significant targets is a key challenge, the report has flagged. Close to 67 per cent of the 169 targets are currently not measurable in the Asia-Pacific region, highlighted the report.

Although data availability for the SDGs has doubled since 2017, data remains insufficient for 53 targets, including three climate ones.

On average, just 37.5 per cent of the indicators under the climate action goal (SDG 13) in the region had data. Around 7 per cent of indicators had insufficient data and 55.4 per cent of the indicators under SDG 13 lacked data altogether, the data revealed. 

This means around 62.5 per cent of indicators under the climate goal do not have data. This will affect monitoring progress under the climate goal. SDG 13 ranks in fifth place in the Asia-Pacific region when the average percentage of indicators lacking data is taken into account.  

The goals with the least amount of data currently available are — gender equality (SDG 5) and peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16).

The report also called for significant ramp-up in investment in sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy sources.

Progress on mitigating hunger (SDG 2), enhancing health and well-being (SDG 3), ensuring clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), expanding affordable and clean energy (SDG 7) and building sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11) too has not been as needed. 

These goals too demand attention on priority, said the report. But these goals have a very strong link with climate change, which is an existential threat for the region with the potential to disrupt decades of progress, alerted UNDP’s in Human Development Report for the region. 

For example, when half of the world’s hungry people live in the Asia-Pacific, climate change poses significant challenges to food security in the region and will impact the progress of SDG 2 (ending hunger).

When the frequency and severity of extreme events are projected to increase over most of the region, agriculture will continue to be impacted by climate change. This will in turn affect livelihoods and economy (SDG 1) of the region.

Further, climate change and extreme weather events, which threaten the achievement of the SDG targets, are the most severe global risks over next 10 years, WMO alerted recently. So poor progress on climate action in the Asia Pacific region will further impact achievement of the SDG targets, WMO warned in September 2023.

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