UN Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action highlights the societal imperative to take urgent action to combat climate change and its devastating impacts through policy, awareness-raising, and adaptation and mitigation strategies. The effects of climate change can be seen on every continent. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are now at their highest levels in history. Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is likely to surpass 3°C this century. Climate change is disrupting national economies and individual lives, with the poorest and most vulnerable people suffering the most. SDG 13 is further refined by targets that can be more readily translated into actions. These targets highlight the interconnected nature of the goals: For example, strategies to tackle Climate Action are intertwined with those that address SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being). Below are a series of synergies that can come from providing access to products, services and systems that address Climate Action.
Invest in Access to Safe, Affordable and Sustainable Transportation
By 2030, 1.2 billion cars will be on the road globally, and annual passenger traffic will increase by 50% over 2015 levels.1 These trends are expected to raise greenhouse gas contributions from the transport sector, which already constitutes 18% of all human-made
emissions.2 At the same time, emissions from freight and shipping are growing even more rapidly than those from personal transportation, posing another urgent challenge for climate mitigation.3 Transport systems are also increasingly vulnerable to climate change impacts; increases in heavy precipitation events will affect road and bridge infrastructure,4 and ports are at risk to rising seas and extreme weather. 5Yet access to mobility and transportation translates into economic growth and expands access to jobs and social opportunities.6 As people worldwide seek more mobility, access to sustainable transport options will be critical to achieving SDG 13: Climate Action.
Invest in Access to Sustainable Sources of Food and Nutrition
A growing population and changing dietary needs equate to a higher global demand for food. The world will need to produce upwards of 70% more food by 2050 to feed an estimated 9 billion people.7 However, the effects of climate change are accelerating the disruption of agricultural systems, especially in regions where levels of hunger are already high,8 offsetting progress in food access as developing economies grow.9 Measures of hunger have increased since 2014, and experts attribute this in part to climate change impacts.10 At the same time, food systems will need to become more sustainable, as agriculture is currently a major source of GHG emissions.11 Solutions will need to help increase and ensure access to food with an emphasis on sustainable production in the
Invest in Access to Education
Education plays an important role in both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Higher levels of education translate to an increased understanding and awareness of the immediate threats of climate change, resulting in a greater likelihood for advocacy on associated issues.12 Furthermore, women who attain higher levels of education have fewer children, thereby curbing emissions from population growth and mitigating future climate change.13 The countries that will be hardest hit by climate change are also home to large child populations who will need to adapt to these impacts.14 In this case, increased access to education helps current and future decisionmakers and workers take successful actions to adapt personally and collectively.15
Invest in Access to Affordable, Sustainable and Modern Energy
Globally, more people have access to electricity than ever before.16 However, 13% of the global population still lacks access to electricity.17 Meanwhile, energy production is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60% of total global emissions.18 Increasing access to sustainable forms of energy will be critical to reducing future emissions.19 In particular, replacing the wood, coal, and charcoal fuels that 3 billion people currently rely on for cooking with efficient cookstoves has been identified as a priority goal.20
Invest in Access to Clean Air
Clean air and SDG 13: Climate Action are directly related. Black carbon is a major output of vehicles, coal-based power plants, and other fossil-fuel burning sources. Not only is black carbon a major driver of climate change, it is also an air pollutant with serious public health consequences.21 Organizations such as the World Health Organization have conducted research showing that 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds guidelines for acceptable particulate matter, which contributes to 4.2 million deaths yearly.22 Providing access to clean air addresses these health issues and reduces greenhouse gas emissions simultaneously.
SDG 13: References
1 Global Mobility Report, 2017, Sustainability for All Initiative;
3 Decarbonizing Transport for a Sustainable Future: Conference Proceedings, Fifth EU-US Transport Research Symposium. National Academy of Sciences. 2017;
4 Fourth National Climate Assessment. US Global Change Research Program. 2018;
5 Discussion Report: Sustainable transport solutions to the climate crisis, 2016;
6 Global Mobility Report, 2017, Sustainability for All Initiative;
7 The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, FAO, 2018;
8 Climate Change Impacts on Global Food Security, Wheeler, Tim; von Braun, Joachim, 2017;
9 G. C. Nelson et al., Food Security, Farming, and Climate Change to 2050: Scenarios, Results, Policy Options, IFPRI, 2010;
10 The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, FAO, 2018;
11 CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, 2018;
12 Sustainable development begins with education: how education can contribute to the proposed post 2015 goals, 2014, & Evaluation of a national high school entertainment education program: The Alliance for Climate Education, 2014;
13 Climate Change and Education Policy Brief, The Commonwealth, 2016;
15 Universal Education is key to enhance climate adaptation, Science, 2014;
16 Access to Modern Energy: Assessment and Outlook for Developing and Emerging Regions, 2018;
17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, 2018;
19 Access to Modern Energy: Assessment and Outlook for Developing and Emerging Regions, 2018;
20 EPA Air Quality and Climate Change Research, 2018;
21 World Health Organization, 2018.
21 EPA Air Quality and Climate Change Research;
22 World Health Organization.