Fiona Franklin, senior corporate development manager at Earthwatch Europe, calls for joined-up thinking from government and industry on the SDGs if we are to limit climate-related disasters
The UK is hotter than it has been for 100 years due to climate change. Over the past decade, average temperatures have increased 0.80C and rainfall is up 20% compared with a 30-year period ending in 1990. Not only is our climate changing globally, but there is clear evidence that societal decisions are also having a huge impact on the UK.
The question is not whether we should be taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts – this we know – the question is what action should be taken, and how businesses as well as government can help in the campaign to build resilience to limit climate-related hazards and natural disasters.
There is a reassurance that the UK government takes its responsibilities on climate action seriously. It's a key party within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change delivering both its own UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) obligations and supporting others to fulfil theirs. But there’s no hiding from the fact that the country is lagging on climate targets. It is the UK’s Climate Change Act that requires us to strengthen our resilience against climate risks, and now is a timely opportunity for the UK government to ensure that effective, strategic frameworks and benchmarking are in place and that policies are up-to-date and aligned.
By 2050, heat-related deaths are due to rise in the UK by 250%
The UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) has recently published a report, ‘Measuring Up’ showing for the first time how the UK is performing on the SDGs. Whilst there is a great deal to celebrate, the most vulnerable people and places in our society are increasingly being left behind.
Earthwatch’s research within the report shows that lives are at risk as a direct result of UK climate change – by 2050, heat-related deaths are due to rise in the UK by 250%. Flooding will increase in both frequency and severity with an estimated 1.8 million people living in areas with an annual risk of flooding higher than one in every 75 years. This is projected to rise to between 2.6 – 3.3 million people by the 2050s.
Our research also highlights that the risk of climate-related international displacement of people needs sharper focus, as noted in the recent UK Climate Change Risk Assessment. The World Bank has recently warned that lack of increased action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and of farsighted development planning will result in mass movement of 140 million people inside countries and across.
Urgent action, however, is not limited to the national government – the importance of local implementation, via councils, cannot be emphasized enough. This could include local councils adopting and implementing local disaster plans in line with the Sendai Framework and national plans. The Sendai Framework is a voluntary way to manage disaster risk reduction and is guided by principles including – but not limited to – engagement from all of society and the empowerment of local authorities and communications through resources, incentives and decision-making responsibilities as appropriate.
It’s essential for UK businesses to embed sustainable practices across their operations
The SDGs – adopted by all 193 UN members in 2015 – cannot be achieved by individual organizations or government alone. By looking at the relationships between the goals or targets, organizations can identify whose work relates to their own, even if they are in a different industry or sector. This can open the door to interesting, and potentially unexpected opportunities of collaboration.
To help plan effective actions to tackle more than one goal at a time, the UK government must lead on delivering joined-up work, with consideration of the impact that each goal has on each other. The power of a joined-up and coherent approach means more people pooling their expertise to plug the gaps in knowledge and action.
As well as UK businesses seeking opportunities to collaborate with others to tackle the SDGs, there is a key role for them to play as employers, too. It’s essential to engage teams with issues of climate change, as well as being proactive in embedding sustainable practices across their operations. Businesses can create their own opportunities by linking up with like-minded partners on projects that have direct impact and by investing in environmental programmes. Earthwatch works with corporate partners to help them minimize their impact on the natural world and inspire employees to act, both in and outside of work.
There is no question that the effectiveness of the actions made by industry and by individuals to combat the effects of climate change will be reliant on and strengthened by the UK government taking the opportunity, now, to set the priorities and strategy for the future.
climate change Earthwatch SDGs