UNEP: COVID-19: Four Sustainable Development Goals that help future-proof global recovery

We're all about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and using them as an effective way to measure and talk about the impact SeaTrees is having by planting and protecting coastal ecosystems. 

Know what we're also all about? Future-proofing the world's ultimate recovery from COVID-19 by addressing some of the overarching environmental challenges that are going to make living on the big beautiful planet less-than-fun. 

This recent article from the United Nations Environment Program "four Sustainable Development Goals that will be vital for a truly sustainable recovery" - which just so happen to be the key environmental goals SeaTrees is focused on:

Climate Action (Goal 13): The climate crisis may be seen as a slower moving crisis than the speed of this global pandemic, but it’s the long-term effects are likely to be far more threatening. Runaway global warming is something we do not have the science, technology or funding to solve. Without additional commitments to decarbonization, the planet is on track for a 3.2 degree global temperature rise and beyond. This is linked to an increased likelihood of pandemics, extreme weather events, droughts, flooding and widespread destabilization of global food, economic and security systems. Unchecked global warming will undo gains to address almost every sustainable development goal. It will undo economic recovery.

Life on Land (Goal 15): Diseases passed from animals to humans, zoonoses such as COVID-19, will continue to rise, as the world continues to see unprecedented destruction of wild habitats by human activity. Degraded habitats may encourage more direct animal-human interaction, rapid evolutionary processes and diversification of diseases, as pathogens spread easily to livestock and humans.

To prevent further pandemic outbreaks both global destruction of the natural habitats for unsustainable farming, mining and housing must move to sustainable pathways. It is vital that governments, the private sector and civil society build back better by working with, not against the environment in order to manage and create resilience to future systemic threats.  

Life below water (Goal 14): The ecosystems that sustain and protect life are just as vital below water as they are on land. The decline and degradation of natural marine, coastal and freshwater ecosystems, and their biodiversity, combined with increasing ocean warming, ocean acidification and widespread pollution, presents a crisis of just as serious concern.

Humans rely on these ecosystems for coastal protection, medicines, industry and food. The sustainability of global fish stocks has plummeted in the previous few decades. Marine genetic resources, among others, are used for pharmaceutical purposes including anti-viral effect, and conservation of marine ecosystems assures their conservation. Excessive nutrients runoff is also an issue which can lead to eutrophication, harmful algae blooms as well as potential increase in the number of dead zones, all of which can compromise the production and conservation of vital resources.

Responsible consumption and production (Goal 12): Unsustainable production and consumption is perpetuated by brown financing, investments and lifestyle choices. Such practices have led to a depletion of natural resources, disruption of ecosystems, resource and carbon-intensive economies and infrastructures, as well as environmental health issues and diseases.

This pandemic has shown where many of the weaknesses in our systems lie. It has proved that responsibilities to act extend from governments to private sector to civil society and individuals if we are to successfully meet environmental goals.  Closed borders, availability of commodities, and confinement have forced behaviour changes worldwide.  

Some of the changes have accelerated new and emerging sectors that support responsible consumption, such as online working or locally sourced production. As people return to work and schools reopen, some of these positive changes can be retained. Employers – public and private – and individuals have now tested alternative ways of working, studying and consuming at a scale that can durably leap-frog some transitions to more responsible consumption and production.