SDGs: Now the talk is over, time for action

15 outubro 2015

On 25 September 2015, the world committed itself to tackling its biggest development issues when the UN General Assembly approved the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, with their 169 targets, replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000.

Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs commit both developed and developing countries to attaining these goals. Among these is SDG 15, a commitment to halt deforestation and substantially increase afforestation by 2020.

Ostensibly a laudable aim, there are considerable concerns associated with this goal. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted about the SDGs, the true test of nations’ commitment to the goals would be in the implementation.

The target is meaningless unless action is taken by governments toward addressing deforestation now; otherwise this ambitious goal might be seen as carte blanche to cut down as much forest as possible before the 2020 deadline.

As the EU drags its feet on delivering on an Action Plan on Deforestation (which it is committed to doing by the Seventh Environmental Action Programme), Fern wonders how the EU will fulfil SDG15, or, indeed, its own target to halt deforestation by 2030. Also, “afforestation” could well do more harm than good for the climate, biodiversity and communities if it translates into the planting of large monoculture timber plantations (which are classified as forests according to the FAO) or even oil palm plantations. If the aim is to restore depleted and degraded forests, the focus should be on natural forest regeneration, which should be done in partnership with local communities...

Concerns also surround finding the trillions of dollars required to reach the SDGs, especially in light of July’s Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa which many NGOs argue failed to reach agreement about how to fund development, and failed to create a new international tax body that would give developing countries an equal say in global tax rules and help them combat tax avoidance and evasion.

[This article has been corrected to remove the suggestion that oil palm plantations are regarded as forests under the FAO's definition.]

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