UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening of COP21, taking place in Paris, France. (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening of COP21, taking place in Paris, France. (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)[i] provide useful guidance for shaping law, policy and practice for implementation of effective and ambitious climate change action.  Specifically, they exhort nations to share innovation and prosperity, promote global cooperation and solidarity and address equality and climate justice. CIGI and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) cosponsored a COP21 official side event on The new role of climate finance, policy & law, exploring this integrated and transformative approach.

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno talked of the importance of integrating the SDGs into financing decisions to assist recipient countries to develop and implement their Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDCs) on climate change. Juan Orlando Hernández, President of the Republic of Honduras, described the extreme risk that his country faces from climate change and some of the measures being undertaken, with the assistance of the IDB, to prevent deforestation.  Peruvian Minister of the Environment and COP20 Chair Manuel Pulgar-Vidal noted with optimism that there is an increase in global investment in green technology and innovation, and that multilateral development banks (MDBs) and national governments were finding ways to leverage private investment to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. David Runnalls, CIGI Distinguished Fellow, said that the COP21 agreement should include at least US $300 Billion of financing and that would require MDBs to attract more investment of private funds. Bianca Jagger, CIGI Senior Fellow and President of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, was encouraged by the fact that over 180 nations had submitted their INDCs but decried the fact that their total ambition was inadequate to prevent temperatures rising well above two degrees Celsius. She urged the COP to keep temperatures below a 1.5 degree Celsius increase and to involve indigenous people in decision-making by MDBs.  Albert Daley, Head of the Climate Change Division at the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change of Jamaica, described Jamaica’s efforts, supported by the IDB, to manage the effects of climate change on their principal industry of tourism. 

The discussion demonstrated the complexity of climate change adaptation and mitigation issues and how, guided by the SDGs, they require integrated and transformative action by MDBs, national governments, the private sector and civil society organizations in order to succeed.

SDGs 4–10 speak to the need to both help and empower all people to share in the opportunities of sustainable development, innovation and prosperity. Public international law, national law, private law and voluntary approaches could be used to encourage developed countries, MDBs and clean technology innovators to cooperate in sharing knowledge, know-how and equipment with, and providing financing to, developing countries. For the transition to a low carbon economy international, transnational and domestic legal and voluntary mechanisms could be leveraged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create incentives for clean energy innovation and enforce corporate disclosure of climate change-related risks.

SDGs 11–17 envision a new global partnership of cooperation and solidarity to address the shared challenge of protecting our environment. This suggests that MDBs should leverage the INDCs of developed countries to support investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation in the developing world. Encouraging developed countries to include as part of their INDCs transfers of public and private funds, technology and know-how to developing countries would establish clean energy sources, protect endangered forests and wetlands, and support other features of the new green economy. International trade and intellectual property law, domestic law and policy, bilateral and voluntary arrangements and private law could all be leveraged to build this global partnership.

SDGs 1–5 focus on basic human rights issues, whereas SDG 16 acknowledges human rights are meaningless unless citizens can participate in decisions affecting them and enforce their rights through accessible systems of justice. Thus when MDBs evaluate national climate change strategies for financial support they should ensure that every stage of design, implementation and accountability complies with and integrates human rights considerations, especially those of indigenous peoples, as they are significantly impacted by climate change.

The SDGs and outcomes of COP21 create exciting opportunities for MDBs, national governments, the private sector and civil society to work together in implementing climate change commitments. The IDB, national government and civil society voices on this panel demonstrated that integrating finance, policy and law to share innovation and prosperity, promote global cooperation and solidarity and address equality and climate justice, as guided by the SDGs, provides our best hope for engendering effective and ambitious climate change action.  


[i] On 25 September 2015 the 193-Member United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with a set of bold new Global Goals, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51968#.VmAX2narSM8. The SDGs are as follows:

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries between developed and developing countries.

Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

The SDGs and outcomes of COP21 create exciting opportunities for MDBs, national governments, the private sector and civil society to work together in implementing climate change commitments.
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