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UN: Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Volume 793: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their plans for the United Kingdom Voluntary National Review on the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development, due to be presented to the United Nations in September 2019.

My Lords, the UK will present its voluntary national review of progress towards the global goals at the UN in July 2019. Preparations are under way. The Government are committed to an inclusive process, to produce a strong voluntary national review. Yesterday, the Government launched a website,, setting out our plans and asking for input from people and organisations across the UK.

I thank the Minister for that Answer and look forward to contributing to that consultation. One key element of the sustainable development goals, which was missing from the millennium development goals, is the commitment to take more action on disaster resilience. In the last two weeks we have seen the impact that a natural disaster, such as an extreme weather event, can have on development in Indonesia, with the recent tsunami and earthquake. Will the Government ensure that, while it is important that we send aid to Indonesia, we are also acting internationally on disaster resilience to ensure that countries such as Indonesia, which face these extreme weather events regularly, are better able to prepare for, and therefore pre-empt, some of the impacts?

I can certainly do that and I pay tribute to the work the noble Lord has done over many years in this area, as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sustainable Development Goals. He is right that we have responded generously, as is usual with the UK, via the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal, to the situation in Indonesia. The resilience element is something we have been very much aware of, not least because of the effect of the hurricanes in the Caribbean last year. Those led us to work very much on resilience and building back better in that area. I will certainly ensure that that remains a very strong part of our response in terms of the sustainable development goals.

Of the countries that have already published their voluntary national reviews, there are some that stand out. Japan has established a new cabinet body, the SDGs Promotion Headquarters, headed by the Prime Minister and composed of all Ministers. In Germany, the Federal Chancellery is the lead agency for the national sustainable development strategy. Will the Minister confirm that delivery of the universal SDGs in the UK will have a similar high-level, cross-cutting commitment?

I will, of course. David Cameron, when Prime Minister, was a member of the high-level panel that set up the sustainable development goals. The report will be presented to a high-level panel in July by the Secretary of State for International Development. Indeed, further to that, the Prime Minister will take part next September in the first stocktake of sustainable development goals at the UN General Assembly. That shows that commitment to the SDGs comes from right at the top of this Government and will continue to do so.

My noble friend referred to Hurricane Irma and our response, which was not quite up to scratch. In light of the review that was undertaken, I ask him to look again at the request that I and others, particularly in the Caribbean, have made that that review’s findings, even with people’s names removed, should now be published.

I take issue a little with my noble friend. As he knows, we do not quite see the response that way. I think the response of the UK to those unprecedented two category 5 hurricanes in the Caribbean last year was incredibly effective, with the delivery of support, advice and resilience building. We have done a lot in that area and continue to keep it under review. My noble friend Lord Ahmad and I, and the Ministry of Defence, have put in a substantial amount of work to prepare for this year’s hurricane season, which I think will ensure that that resilience continues.

My Lords, the universal nature of the SDGs is obviously vital. It is about co-ordination in this country to ensure that we respond positively to them. I have a specific question about the consultation. The Government need to be more proactive about the involvement of civil society. The last time DfID undertook a review, there was no mention of trade unions, although they are critical for sustainability and keeping pressure on Governments. Will the Minister undertake that there will not just be a website inviting participation but that the Government will go out and actively seek involvement in the process?

The noble Lord has raised this before. He is absolutely right that if the SDGs are to be met, they will not be met by Governments alone; they have to be met by civil society. That means business getting involved, as well as church groups, trade unions and charities. It is impossible to assess our progress towards the SDGs by looking simply at government entities in this country. Therefore, the trade unions will be a very important element in that. Individual departments will be reaching out to trade unions to ensure that their voices are heard. Proactively, however, there is also the opportunity through the website launched yesterday for trade unions and other parts of civil society to make sure that their contribution to meeting those goals is recognised in our voluntary national review.

My Lords, in view of all the bad news about climate change that we have been reading, are the Government making more effort and looking harder at sustainable development goal 13, which is about climate change? What action will they take?

We have taken a number of pieces of action. Some of the action required of us is under the Climate Change Act, which was introduced in 2008 under the previous Labour Government. Of course, a major step forward was the Paris agreement. There will be a follow-up to that agreement. We have introduced international climate finance as a way of scaling up the amount of investment available for that very important area. The IPCC made those announcements in Seoul, South Korea, just a couple of days ago, which grabbed the headlines. They will be followed up at a special meeting in Katowice in Poland in December and we will play a full and leading part in that.

My Lords, I am sure the Minister knows that yesterday’s UN report said that we would have to be carbon-neutral by 2040 to survive a lot of catastrophes, and something like $2.4 trillion would have to be spent on future-proofing ourselves. Do the Government really think that their plans are ambitious enough?

The point with all the sustainable development goals is that they are absolutely essential but they are long-term strategic goals. That is why the Government have a 25-year environmental plan. They also require huge amounts of capital. The noble Baroness mentioned $2.4 trillion. The global aid packages which go around the world amount to $150 billion—and we are looking for $2.4 trillion. These are huge amounts. We cannot do that without scaling up investment from the private sector; individual Governments need to step up as well. We will continue to urge that course of action.