The UN SDG Summit in New York, where UN member states gathered to take stock of the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be achieved by 2030, has just ended (other articles on the subject here and here). The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designate, in fact, the road map that the international community has given itself to get out of global crises, first and foremost the climate and environmental crisis, to guarantee everyone a dignified and prosperous life on a clean planet.

However, sadly, the UN Secretary-General reported that, almost 10 years later, only 15 per cent of the targets of the SDGs Agenda 2030 have been achieved. This is a disappointing result and one that seriously risks jeopardising the achievement of the 17 goals by 2030, as well as worsening the situation of those who are already in vulnerable and disadvantaged positions.

As our delegate Ayshka Najib also argued in her speech at the Generation Equality Midpoint (see link in minute 16), the SDGs are the guide for the survival of the MAPAs (Most Affected People and Areas) of the Global South. Not achieving them does not only result in a failure to meet the target, but also marks the lives and existence of millions of people, exacerbating unacceptable social inequalities. This clearly raises issues of climate justice.

The term climate justice incorporates the ethical and legal principles of equality and accountability, according to which the richest and most polluting nations should make greater efforts to cope with climate change, as well as empowering the poorest and most vulnerable countries to cope with it by redressing existing structural inequalities. But climate justice can only be done through a holistic approach to certain issues. These include redistributive and democratic access to decision-making (procedural justice). 

At the SDG Summit, it clearly emerged that there is still a long way to go on the first front – to date, rich countries have allocated derisory sums compared to what they had pledged to do, so much so that there was talk of a rescue plan of $500 billion, i.e. $400 billion more than the initial famous $100 billion never allocated.

On 15-16 September, the G77 Developing Countries Summit was held in Havana, Cuba. It became clear from the meeting that the time has come for them to change the rules that have so far guided the international community to pave the way for true multilateralism, as they do not believe that the international community is truly a democratic forum where all countries have equal weight and influence in the decisions that affect them. 

In the second point of the Havana Declaration adopted at the end of the summit, the G77 countries reaffirmed the need to ensure full respect for the purposes and principles of the UN charter. In particular, the democratisation of its decision-making process in order to ensure that all participating countries sit at the table ‘as equals’. At the moment, the United Nations seems to replicate the old power dynamics whereby, thanks to their economic and resource advantage, de facto only Western countries would exercise decision-making power within that institution, with an unacceptable lack of representation of Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia. Added to this is also the fact that, to date, the decisions taken have mostly remained on paper, given the reluctance of Western countries to actually implement the commitments made.

On these premises, therefore, the countries of the Global South came to the SDG Summit to emphasise the need to democratise the United Nations in order to mark a decisive change of pace in international dynamics: the Global North can no longer be the world’s navel. In short, a new world is advancing and could radically re-determine the functioning and dynamics of the international community starting with the main international fora, including the Climate Negotiations. 

COP28, the UN conference to be held in Dubai between late October and early December, could be an interesting platform to observe these changes and their possible consequences. Certainly, such events can only be interpreted from the perspective of implementing climate justice through procedural justice.

On the other hand, the countries of the Global South account for about 80% of the world’s population, a rather significant slice, in addition to the fact that they are precisely that segment of the world which – as we have repeatedly said – is vulnerable and is most disadvantaged by the West’s inaction in significantly counteracting the effects of climate change.  

Article by Erika Moranduzzo, Climate and Rights Section Coordinator Italian Climate Network

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