• Julissa Coplin

2022 UN Sustainable Development Goals Report: Is the world on track to reach our Water SDGs? Part 1

Updated: Aug 2

Introduction

In September 2015, The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was introduced and adopted by world leaders in the historic Sustainable Development Summit. This universal agenda proposed a total of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for all nations to accomplish by 2030. The purpose of the UN SDGs is to tackle a variety of environmental, economic, and social issues, such as climate action, poverty, public health, education, and decent job opportunities. The UN maintains that the long-term vision for these goals is to develop a world that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (UN, 2022).


All 17 SDG goals are, to some capacity, tied to Water equity and Water protection goals. At Water&, we believe it is important to monitor all the progress (or lack thereof) that countries make in implementing these goals into their legislation, policies, and infrastructure. This is accomplished through an annual Sustainable Development Goals report that summarizes both the achievements and shortfalls the world is making towards SDGs.


In the newly released 2022 UN Sustainable Development Report, it is clear that we still have a considerable amount of work to do when it comes to preventing Water pollution and achieving Water justice. Here is an update on the global progress being made for 5 out of 17 SDGs from a Water-centered perspective. Are we currently on the right track to achieving our Water SDGs?


Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

The report placed emphasis on the continued COVID-19 pandemic as the greatest impeder to achieving our current public health and community wellness goals. Essential and routine health services, such as reproductive health and immunization coverage, were disrupted by the need to allocate resources to treat COVID-19 patients. As of July 2022, COVID-19 has impacted approximately 500 million people through death, illness, job loss and other economic hardships, and lowered life expectancies (UN, 2022).


It is imperative that nations continue to allocate resources to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; however, we must not lose sight of our Water protection and Water equity goals in this process. We must not forget that the root of good public health always starts with access to clean Water. At Water&, part of our definition of Water equity includes advocacy for Water as a human right, which means that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, can access clean and safe drinking Water. Our recognition of Water as a human right ensures a strong foundation for public health infrastructure and policy. Our conversations on public health must simultaneously address ongoing public health issues while also addressing our urgent Water equity principles.


Goal #6: Clean Water & Sanitation

It is well established that community access to well-managed sanitation services and clean drinking Water is an integral part of a nation’s infrastructure. Sanitation services include human hygiene, appropriate sewage disposal, and clean Water management. There has been significant progress in developing nations in establishing these sanitation services; globally, from 2015 to 2020, the percentage of the human population with access to sanitation services increased from 47% to 54%. At current rates, it will increase to 67% by 2030. However, 2.8 billion people will still lack access to sanitation facilities.


The report urges that in order to meet our 2030 sanitation goal, efforts and progress by all nations must increase by four times its current rate. Increasing the speed of our efforts is an essential step to achieving true Water equity.


Goal # 12: Responsible Consumption & Production

Industries make up a large percentage of today’s carbon footprint due to substantial uses of fossil fuels and unsustainable patterns of production. Among those harmful patterns include the excess production of single-use plastics. These plastics often end up in landfills and in our oceans, thus harming marine life and introducing toxic chemicals, like PFAS, into our Waterways.

In addition to holding ourselves accountable for developing and maintaining sustainable habits, we must also hold corporations accountable for their negligent treatment of the environment and of Water. The UN also calls for a universal education system that adequately incorporates a curriculum of sustainable development (UN, 2022). With a better global curriculum on sustainability, we will equip a new generation of young adults to be more conscious consumers and be the next advocates for Water equity.


Goal #13: Climate Action

The UN projects that the global annual mean temperature will rise 1.5 degrees Celsius in at least the next five years. This will lead to devastating environmental consequences, such as extreme weather patterns, a rise in drought, and various other Water crises that will harm present and future generations. There was a global drop in the use of fossil fuels during the pandemic, but pandemic-related declines were erased due to an increased demand in fossil fuels in 2021 (UN 2022).


Climate and Water crises are fundamentally intertwined. Demands for a smooth transition to clean energy will not only help slow down the consequences of climate change, but it will in turn help us get closer to our Water equity and Water conservation goals. We must urgently call on all nations to progress in their agendas towards climate action.


Goal #16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

War and other forms of violent conflict not only put innocent lives in danger, but they jeopardize access to basic necessities such as food, clean Water, and sanitation services. In 2022, the war in Ukraine and a record number of forcibly displaced refugees have shown that violent conflict between nations decreases the livelihood and dignity of innocent civilians.


Water is, unfortunately, an indicator of injustice around the world. At Water&, we are committed to making Water equity a reality for all nations. This includes equal Water access even in times of conflict or national strife.


Conclusion

While some progress in sustainable development was made in access to sanitation services and sanitation management, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to impede progress towards public health goals and there is still a lack of urgency in climate action. We must elevate our global efforts in attaining these five SDGs by 2030. Part of our mission at Water& is to educate and raise awareness of the UN SDG agenda and hold all nations accountable to the part they play in creating a more sustainable world.


References

United Nations (2022). The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022. United Nations Statistics Division Development Data and Outreach Branch.

https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2022/

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