Goal 13 in detail: Urgent action to combat climate change

In charge of combating environmental degradation, global warming and its consequences.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) could not have been clearer in its Fifth Assessment Report: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems."

With this explicit trenchant message, tackling climate change was declared a significant strategic aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 13, “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact”, is aimed at fighting environmental degradation, global warming and its consequences; as a last resort, at ensuring humanity's survival.

Let's take a closer look at Goal 13 and its four targets:

Strengthen adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards

Climate change is happening now, affecting people's health, increasing countries' spending on remedying its consequences, and negatively impacting communities' capacity for economic growth and development.

Extreme weather phenomena are increasing its frequency, and this has become a pivotal issue for many countries. This is the case of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), whose characteristics mean they will be the first to suffer the consequences of climate change and are at risk of disappearing.Anthropogenic climate change

Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planing

The SDGs acknowledge the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as the main international intergovernmental forum for negotiating a global response to climate change. In this connection, the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) must produce an agreement that meets three minimum requirements:

  1. Targets consistent with the latest IPCC report to keep global warming below 2ºC. This entails adopting a quantitative goal of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 40-70% by 2050, in comparison with 2010 levels, and achieving close to zero emissions in 2100.
  2. Implement the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) published by almost 150 countries. Unfortunately, based on the announced contributions, the Earth's temperature will still rise by more than 2ºC: according to Climate Action Tracker, it will rise by 2.7ºC, while Climate Interactive estimates a 3.5ºC increase. Accordingly, there is necessary a mechanism that allows to review regularly the national contributions in order to adapt them to assure the fulfilment of the agreed global targets.
  3. A guideline that explicitly promotes the use of tools that foster compliance with the global goal, such as, for example carbon markets or a carbon tax.

Improve education and awareness-raising on human´ capacity to mitigate climate change

Regarding climate change, the last IPCC report account with a consensus of the scientific community greater than 97% and, being the document more relevant in these matters. Governments, NGOs, companies and civil society, have a great responsibility in the public awareness of the need to change not only the production model but also our models and consumption habits.

One of numerous reports on the decarbonisation of the economy, the Low Carbon Economy Index, shows that persist the current model of production and consumption, in the year 2100 we would have an increase in temperature of 4ºC.Glaciers and climate change

Funding to meet the needs of developing countries

Implementing the commitment of the developed countries, by 2020, the UNFCCC aims to mobilise 100 billion dollars annually for emerging economies to implement projects to combat climate change. In this connection, the Green Climate Fund is a milestone in the United Nations' way of acting that changes the paradigm of global development towards a low-carbon economy. This investment (with below-market interest rates) is aimed at developing countries.

Developed countries should facilitate investment to developing countries. This is one of the key aspects of the COP21 talks: Common But Differentiated Responsibility. The negotiation points to the obligation to reduce emissions against the cost. This is a political matter, in which developing countries may agree to a larger reduction in emissions if it is accompanied by advantageous financing.

Increase the capacity of the least developed countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

The transition to a low-carbon economy is a challenge for society at large, and for the public and private sectors. In least developed countries and Small Island Developing States there is necessary to enable their communities implement plans against climate change.

See the Sustainable Development Goals for more information.