Life & Career

17 Ambitious Goals That Literally The Entire Planet is Working Towards in 2017

Image: Triff / Shutterstock
Image: Triff / Shutterstock

You’ve probably decided on one or two new year’s resolutions for 2017. But did you know more than seven billion people have agreed on 17 common goals?

The member states of the United Nations put their weight behind 17 ambitious global goals in 2015. It is now up to the UN, its 193 member states and more than seven billion citizens in civil society and the private sector to meet all goals within the 15-year deadline.

Officially known as the Sustainable Development Goals, there are now less than 13 years left to achieve them. So 2017 will be another crucial year as the countdown to 2030 continues.

One of the most critical goals is to take action against climate change, and all of the 16 other goals are also closely linked to global warming, covering areas such as poverty, hunger, health, clean water, clean energy, sustainable cities, industry, infrastructure and much more.

The new UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said he will make dealing with “global mega-trends” like climate change a top priority. He also said he wants the UN to work more with civil society and the private sector to achieve the global goals.

Get familiar with all 17 global goals to see if you can help!

1. No Poverty

End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

As the effects of climate change become more visible, escaping poverty becomes more difficult according to the World Bank. Climate change hits the poorest people the hardest, they often live in vulnerable areas with the fewest resources to help them adapt or recover quickly from sudden events. But the World Bank says we have a window now for ending extreme poverty and putting in place the safety nets that can keep poverty at bay while also cutting emissions.

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2. Zero Hunger

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Unless we take action on climate change, we will likely see an increase in the risk of hunger through rising food costs, according to research by Climate-KIC partner the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact (PIK). The risks substantially increase over time if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, computer simulations show. “Adaptation can and must include shifting production to higher-yielding areas, changes in food trade and investing in yield-increasing and well adapted agricultural technologies,” says PIK’s Hermann Lotze-Campen. European innovators, supported by Climate-KIC, are already looking for new ways to decarbonise agriculture and make it more efficient and productive

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3. Good Health And Well-Being

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

The overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Climate change affects social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. The WHO also mentions extreme heat, natural disasters and diseases as major risk factors. The solution according to the WHO? Take action to bring down greenhouse gas emissions and assist countries with adapting their health systems so they can reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

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4. Quality Education

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Education is an essential element of the global response to climate change according to the UN Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It helps people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour and helps them adapt to climate change-related trends, UNESCO says. Education also helps students and professionals spot the business opportunities of the low carbon economy, empowering them to boost the economy while tackling climate change at the same time. Where do you get this type of education? You could join Europe’s largest summer school for climate innovation and entrepreneurship, one of the many courses organised by EU climate innovation initiative Climate-KIC.

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5. Gender Equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women according to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat. Locally, women’s inclusion at the leadership level has already lead to improved outcomes of climate related projects and policies the UNFCCC says. Although the new UN secretary general is a man, he has said he will lead by example and will introduce “gender parity at all levels” at the United Nations.

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6. Clean Water And Sanitation

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Water and climate change are inextricably linked, as the effects of climate change are first felt through water: through droughts, floods and storms, according to UNICEF. Without clean water, children are at risk of diseases such as diarrhoea, which already kills over 800 children under five every day. Using new technologies to map water sources, UNICEF is able to drill more effectively for water and help those in need adapt to the impacts of climate change, and start-ups like Climate-KIC supported Elemental Water Makers are developing innovative desalination systems to produce fresh drinking water.

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7. Affordable And Clean Energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

It is clear that the energy sector must play a critical role if efforts to reduce emissions are to succeed, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says. The European Commission recently put forward a ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package of energy laws and regulations to help the continent make the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner and cheaper forms of energy. One key focus for the EU is energy efficiency, and start-ups like the Climate-KIC supported smart home company Tado – which recently raised $20 million to expand to the United States – are jumping on the opportunity to help consumers save energy and money.

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8. Decent Work And Economic Growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

The EU’s latest plan to make clean energy available to all Europeans could generate up to 1 per cent increase in GDP over the next decade and create 900,000 new jobs. “Clean energy is here to stay and has become a jobs and growth engine,” said EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete. More than eight million people, roughly the equivalent of the entire country of Switzerland, are already employed by the renewable energy industry worldwide. And research by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicates that the energy sector employs larger shares of women than the broader energy sector.

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9. Industry, Innovation And Infrastructure

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.

There is “significant economic potential” for future energy efficiency savings in the manufacturing industry, a report by the World Bank and non-profits CLASP and Carbon Trust says. Innovators in Europe, supported by Climate-KIC, are already building a new foundation for the continent’s industry, decoupling economic growth from unsustainable resource use and greenhouse gas emissions. And because what is built today will be around for a long time, it is crucial buildings, energy grids and public transport are constructed sustainably. Investing in sustainable infrastructure is “key to meeting the Paris Agreement” on climate change says Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico and chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Mexico City hopes to issue its first green bond to fund infrastructure with support from Climate-KIC.

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10. Reduced Inequalities

Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Economic inequality is rapidly increasing in the majority of countries, according to Oxfam. The wealth of the world is divided in two: almost half of it goes to the richest one percent and the other half to the remaining 99 percent. According to a recent UN report, building resilience to climate change provides an opportunity to focus resources on reducing long entrenched inequalities that make people disproportionately vulnerable to climate hazards. “Sadly, the people at greater risk from climate hazards are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised who, in many cases, have been excluded from socioeconomic progress,” said UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

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11. Sustainable Cities And Communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Cities are where some 75 percent of the world’s population is expected to live by 2050 – and already are a major source of greenhouse gases. According to the UN, the world is projected to have 41 mega-cities with 10 million inhabitants or more by 2030. Governments, businesses and innovators – and a coalition of 7000 mayors – around the world are trying to make sure cities are ready for the transition to the zero carbon economy. With programmes like Low Carbon City Lab, Building Technologies Accelerator and Smart Sustainable Districts, the EU’s Climate-KIC supports this transition across Europe, along with a new international ‘gold standard‘ for this global sustainable cities goal.

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12. Responsible Consumption And Production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

If current patterns of consumption continue, it is estimated that global resource use would quadruple within 20 years according to the European Commission. The EU says it will promote international agreements on carbon emission reductions in individual industry sectors as part of ongoing climate change negotiations. Europe is also working on eliminating trade tariffs on low-carbon technologies and environment-friendly products and services. A study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact (PIK), meanwhile, reveals that about a tenth of overall global greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture could be traced back to food waste by mid-century. “Reducing food waste can contribute to fighting hunger, but to some extent also prevent climate impacts like more intense weather extremes and sea-level rise,” PIK’s Ceren Hic said.

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13. Climate Action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Billed as a historic opportunity to deal with the biggest challenge of our time, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has said the Paris Climate Agreement lays out a “clear strategy for action.” Moving forward, the United Nations should focus on “implementation, implementation, implementation,” he stressed. The EU’s climate commissioner has argued that the progress made at the Marrakesh climate summit last year is proof there is no turning back: the world is forging ahead with climate action. “We will stand by Paris, we will defend Paris, and we will implement Paris. The global clean energy transition is here to stay, and Europe will continue to lead the way towards a more sustainable and competitive economy,” said EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete.

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14. Life Below Water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The European Commission recently proposed “50 actions for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world.” The global ocean economy is estimated at €1.3 trillion, according to the Commission, which aims to combat climate change, poverty and food security with the proposal. Karmenu Vella the EU commissioner responsible for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, says Europe wants to update the international framework for managing oceans, reduce the effects of human pressure on the oceans and invest more in ocean science.

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15. Life on Land

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

At the moment, forests cover about 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface and in addition to providing food security and shelter, they are key to combating climate change, according to the UN. Forests store enormous amounts of carbon and they protect biodiversity and the homes of the indigenous population. Thirteen million hectares of forests are lost every year while the persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares. By downloading free open-source software, you could be using data from space to monitor global deforestation and land-use in general in just a matter of minutes.

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16. Peace, Justice And Strong Institutions

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Climate disasters like heat waves or droughts enhance the risk of armed conflicts in countries with high ethnic diversity, according to research by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “Armed conflicts are among the biggest threats to people, killing some and forcing others to leave their home and maybe flee to far-away countries. Hence identifying ethnic divide and natural disasters as enhancing destabilisation risks is potentially quite relevant,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, PIK’s director. Schellnhuber says the findings combined with what is already known about increasing climate-change impacts can help focus international security policy on risk regions.

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17. Partnership For The Goals

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

Governments, the private sector and civil society will need to work together in 2017 and beyond to make the global goals a reality. The new UN boss says he wants to increase his organisation’s engagement with civil society and the private sector, urging UN organisations to pursue “strategic cooperation.” The search for climate change solutions is one of the areas that already involves a huge amount of public-private collaboration. Partnerships like the UN’s own Climate Technology Centre & Network, the European Union’s Climate-KIC and its recently launched Australian equivalent already play a key role on the global stage. Find out how you can get involved!

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Do you have an idea to help achieve one or more of the 17 global goals? Find out how Climate-KIC could help turn your idea into a start-up business.

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About the author(s)

Peter Koekoek

Peter Koekoek

Peter lives in Toronto, Canada, and has been part of Climate-KIC's outreach team since 2013 – starting in London, UK. He is the Daily Planet's managing editor. Peter previously worked as a reporter in Brussels, Belgium, and grew up in the Netherlands. Fun fact: Superman's 'Daily Planet' was originally set in Toronto.

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