The need for collective, accelerated action to realize the Sustainable Development Goals is more apparent than ever, with one scientific report after the other, showing that more urgent action is needed at all levels to achieve the 17 goals by 2030. This year, UN DESA will take the lead on two major issues crucial for the well-being of our planet and the life it hosts – sustainable transport and healthy oceans.
Coinciding with its 75th anniversary, the United Nations has kicked off a “Decade of Action and Delivery” to inspire new policies and investments for SDG implementation, and UN DESA is boosting these efforts by organizing two major conferences: the Global Sustainable Transport Conference (5-7 May, Beijing, China), which will work towards securing inclusive, resilient and low-carbon transport solutions; and the 2020 UN Ocean Conference (2-6 June, Lisbon, Portugal), that will look to scale up ocean action based on science and innovation.
Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, will serve as Secretary-General of both conferences, and UN DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development Goals is already busy with preparations as the conferences’ Secretariat. The events will build on the outcomes of the previous UN conferences on sustainable transport (2016) and the ocean (2017), and draw from recent discussions and reports including the Global Sustainable Development Report 2019, the 2019 SDG Progress Report and reports on global warming and the ocean and cryosphere from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
First, in May, all modes of transport—road, rail, aviation and waterborne—will be addressed in Beijing at the Global Sustainable Transport Conference. Recent scientific and technological advances will be deliberated, and the concerns of vulnerable groups and developing countries will receive particular attention. Key transport objectives, such as access for all, green mobility, low carbon solutions, efficiency and safety, will be discussed.
The Global Sustainable Transport Conference, which is being convened by the UN Secretary-General, will comprise plenaries, parallel thematic sessions and special forums. These forums—the Ministers’ Forum, the Business Forum and the Science, Engineering and Technology Forum—will highlight game-changing contributions from a wide array of government offices, businesses and civil society organizations. The official programme will be complemented by side events, field visits and an exhibition.
The outcome of this Sustainable Transport Conference will be a forward-looking visionary statement calling for global action to further advance sustainable transport worldwide. There will also be a Conference summary, and a compilation of voluntary commitments, partnerships and initiatives to support sustainable transport.
In June, the UN’s attention shifts to the state of the world’s ocean as the UN Ocean Conference is co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya. The Ocean Conference will consist of plenary sessions and eight interactive dialogues addressing challenges and opportunities to implementing SDG 14 and its ten targets with a special emphasis on scaling up ocean action through science and innovation.
The Ocean Conference is expected to result in an intergovernmentally agreed declaration, summaries of the interactive dialogues and a list of new voluntary commitments in support of SDG 14.
The progress and commitments made at both conferences will build on the UN’s recent work in these subject areas and provide valuable context and inputs to July’s High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York, the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference (CBD COP 15) in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), to take place in Glasgow in November. Together, they will help show the world that there is political will, interest from businesses and collective desire for SDG action.
“The window for action is small—just a decade—and the need is urgent,” said Mr. Liu. “The way forward is also clear. All we need now is to get it done!”
By UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), January 2020