Support Sustainable Development and Climate Action

UNHCR staff member talks to a group about the solar powered water pump in the foreground.

The United Nations launched its sustainable development agenda in 2015, reflecting the growing understanding by Member States that a development model that is sustainable for this and future generations offers the best path forward for reducing poverty and improving the lives of people everywhere. At the same time, climate change began making a profound impact on the consciousness of humanity. With the polar ice caps melting, global sea levels rising and cataclysmic weather events increasing in ferocity, no country in the world is safe from the effects of climate change.

Building a more sustainable global economy will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. It is, therefore, critically important that the international community meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals – and also the targets for reducing emissions set in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015.

Sustainable development and climate action are linked – and both are vital to the present and future well-being of humanity.


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The Sustainable Development Agenda

MDGs — Close to 40 per cent of the population of the developing world was living in extreme poverty only two decades ago. Since then, the world has halved extreme poverty, with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) greatly contributing to this progress.

2030 Agenda —Recognizing the success of the MDGs, and the need to complete the job of eradicating poverty, the UN adopted the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes ending poverty; zero hunger; good health and well being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

Paris Agreement — While these goals were being formulated and approved, the United Nations supported the climate change negotiations, which led to the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015. The central aim of the Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or even below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the Paris Agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. In order to reach these goals, financing, new technology and an enhanced capacity-building framework will be put in place. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a transparency framework.


Two key summits


2019 Sustainable Development Summit

In September 2019, Heads of State and Government gathered at UN Headquarters in New York for the Sustainable Development Summit to follow up and comprehensively review progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event was the first UN summit on the SDGs since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in September 2015.

After the summit, the President of the 74th session of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, summarized its results, stating that “the commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains steadfast”, but “the world is not on track to meet the SDGs by 2030.”

In their Political Declaration, Member States said “We recognize the many efforts at all levels since 2015 to realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.” But, they said, “we are concerned that progress is slow in many areas. Vulnerabilities are high and deprivations are becoming more entrenched. Assessments show that we are at risk of missing the poverty eradication target. Hunger is on the rise. Progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is too slow. Inequalities in wealth, incomes and opportunities are increasing in and between countries. Biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, discharge of plastic litter into the oceans, climate change and increasing disaster risk continue at rates that bring potentially disastrous consequences for humanity”.


2019 Climate Action Summit

At the Climate Action Summit in September 2019, 65 countries and major sub-national economies, such as California, committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020, or have started the process of doing so.

Over 100 business leaders delivered concrete actions to align with the Paris Agreement targets and speed up the transition from the grey to green economy, including asset-owners holding over $2 trillion in assets and leading companies with combined value also over $2 trillion.

Many countries - and over 100 cities, including many of the world’s largest, announced significant new steps to combat the climate crisis. Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries were among those who made the biggest pledges.

Secretary-General António Guterres, in closing the Summit, said “You have delivered a boost in momentum, cooperation and ambition. But we have a long way to go.”

You can track the commitments made at the 2019 Climate Action Summit.


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Key entities working to support Sustainable Development and Climate Action


UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is the main global forum for reviewing successes, challenges and lessons learned on achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and for countries to present their Voluntary National Reviews. The Forum is convened under the auspices of both the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly, and its meetings alternate between the two.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC (UN Climate Change)

Maintains the registry for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) established under the Paris Agreement, among other functions. The Paris Agreement requests each country to outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as their NDCs. Together, these climate actions determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. UNEP works to support the world to transition to a low-carbon, sustainable future.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

As the lead UN development agency, UNDP helps implement the SDGs through its work in some 170 countries and territories.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF works with governments, partners and other UN agencies to support countries around the world to ensure that the SDGs deliver results for every child - now and for generations to come.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

UNHCR offers a universal, integrated, transformative and human rights-based vision for sustainable development, peace and security, which is applicable to all people and all countries, including the most developed.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

Poverty eradication and respect for human rights, central pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are at the core of UNRWA’s human development, humanitarian and protection work. The SDGs central to its work are: SDG 1: No Poverty; SDG 2: Zero Hunger; SDG 3 Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 4: Quality Education; SDG 5: Gender Equality; SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities; SDG17: Partnerships.

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs (part of the UN Secretariat) engages stakeholders around the world in the implementation, evaluation and monitoring process of the SDGs.

UN Regional Economic Commissions

UN Regional Economic Commissions play a critical role in supporting countries in their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda by providing technical capacity and analytical work and policy advisory services, and serving as platforms for dialogue. The UN's Regional Economic Commissions are part of the UN Secretariat.

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has emphasized the importance of planning as a key tool of policymaking and public management. Countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region have made significant commitments and taken steps to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into their national or subnational planning schemes.

Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

ECA supported Member States in achieving regional cooperation and integration, and contributed to the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area by 44 African countries, which will create a single continental market for goods and services that can deliver economies of scale, improved competitiveness, foreign direct investment and poverty reduction (SDG Goal 1).

Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)

UNECE supports the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by addressing transboundary issues: (Convention on the protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes), improving road safety, developing frameworks for the improved management of natural resources, and improving statistics for sustainable development.

Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

With extensive in-house expertise, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has developed multisectoral research analysis on regional and national pathways for achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The ESCAP Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness

Provides overall disaster and climate preparedness for the Asia and Pacific region.

Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

ESCWA has developed a macroeconomic Sustainable Development Goal model that simulates the impact of policy choices on each of the 17 SDGs. ESCWA has also developed a regional multidimensional poverty reduction framework that was adopted by Arab leaders at the 2019 Arab Economic and Social Development Summit of the League of Arab States.

UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)

UNDRR works towards the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses to ensure a sustainable future.

UN Office for Partnerships (UNOP)

The United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) serves as a global gateway for catalysing and building partnership initiatives between public and private sector stakeholders including civil society organizations, businesses, philanthropy, trade unions, academia and the United Nations in furtherance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

WMO helps its Members to monitor the Earth’s climate on a global scale, so that reliable information is available to support evidence-based decision-making on how to best adapt to a changing climate and manage risks associated with climate variability and extremes.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

IMF work shows the key role of policies that respond to global climate change and other environmental challenges.

World Bank

The SDGs are aligned with the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. The adoption of a new approach to development finance through the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, along with the 2030 Agenda, and SDGs, the Sendai disaster risk framework, and the Paris Climate Agreement will guide the UN system and the UN-World Bank Group partnership through 2030.

UN Global Compact

The multi-year strategy of the UN Global Compact is to drive business awareness and action in support of achieving the SDGs by 2030.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

UNFPA is working with governments and other partners to better understand population dynamics, how they affect the changing climate and how people can become resilience in the face of these changes.


UN-HABITAT Promotes sustainable human settlements development.

World Food Programme (WFP)

Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals – Zero Hunger – pledging to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, is the priority of the World Food Programme.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals by sustainably building a world without hunger, malnutrition and poverty is the goal of FAO.

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

Given its goal of transforming rural areas and its unmatched experience in investing in smallholder farmers, IFAD plays a central role in achieving SDGs 1 (no poverty) and 2 (zero hunger).

International Labour Organization (ILO)

By engaging governments, workers and employers as active agents of change, the ILO promotes the greening of enterprises, workplace practices and the labour market as a whole. These efforts create decent employment opportunities, enhance resource efficiency and build low-carbon sustainable societies.

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

IMO’s Technical Cooperation Committee has formally approved linkages between the Organization’s technical assistance work and the SDGs. While the Oceans goal, SDG 14, is central to IMO, aspects of the Organization's work can be linked to all individual SDGs.

International Telecommunication Union

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can help accelerate progress towards every single one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ITU contributes to SDG 9 in particular—helping to build resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation (specifically SDG Target 9.c).

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

UNESCO contributes to the implementation of the SDGs through its work on Education, Natural Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Culture, Communication and information. Additionally, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO holds a universal mandate and global convening power for ocean science and capacity development in support of the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable goals.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

UNIDO supports all 17 SDGs, but puts a strong emphasis on SDG9, which focuses on building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation.

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

Tourism has the potential to contribute, directly, or indirectly, to all of the SDGs, in particular, in Goals, 8, 12 and 14 on inclusive and sustainable use of oceans and marine resources. UNWTO is contributing with technical assistance and capacity-building.

Universal Postal Union (UPU)

The Online Solution for Carbon Analysis and Reporting – known as OSCAR – is a tool provided by the UPU to assist postal operators in the analysis of their individual greenhouse emissions by scope source and product.

World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO is coordinating the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All, a plan to accelerate progress towards the SDGs global health goals.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The World Intellectual Property Oragnization contributes to the SDGs by providing concrete services to its member states, enabling them to use the intellectual property (IP) system to drive the innovation, competitiveness and creativity needed to achieve these goals.

United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI)

UNICRI’s work focuses on Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda, which is centred on promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies, free from crime and violence. Justice, crime prevention and the rule of law are the basis for fighting poverty and reducing inequalities while enhancing economic growth and stability, and protecting the environment. UNICRI supports governments and the international community at large in tackling criminal threats to social peace, development and political stability.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

UNODC is committed to supporting Member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda recognizes that the rule of law and fair, effective and humane justice systems, as well as health-oriented responses to drug use, are both enablers for, and part of sustainable development.