Organizations Identify Key Trends, Emerging Risks for 2017
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
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The World Economic Forum (WEF) ‘2017 Global Risks Report’ identifies environmental risks as the most pressing for 2017, stressing that immediate, long-lasting action is necessary to provide hope for reversing climate change trajectories.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) identifies six environment and development stories to watch in 2017 at its annual ‘Stories to Watch’ event.

Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations highlights ten summits to watch in 2017 and emphasizes potential actions by the incoming Trump administration in the US.

16 January 2017: The World Economic Forum (WEF), the World Resources Institute (WRI), the Council on Foreign Relations and the SDG Knowledge Hub all have highlighted key trends and emerging risks to watch in 2017. They consider the potential for continued momentum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, particularly under changing political circumstances.

Other common trends identified by these organizations and fora include the increasing role of the private sector in driving sustainability and the potential for continued action on oceans, including at the upcoming high-level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 (life below water) (the Ocean Conference).

The WEF’s ‘2017 Global Risks Report’ defines four key areas for global risks in 2017: environmental; socioeconomic; technological; and cooperative. The report identifies environmental risks as the most pressing, stressing that immediate, long-lasting action is necessary to provide hope for reversing climate change trajectories. It describes climate change as “one of the truly existential risks to our world” and states that the threat of climate change is among the highest, both in terms of impact and likelihood. The report recognizes progress in cooperation to address climate and other environmental risks in 2016, but concludes “the pace of change…is not fast enough.”

On socioeconomic threats, the report highlights continued challenges related to rising income inequality, polarization of society along ethnic, religious and cultural lines, and strained social protection systems. On technological risks, the report suggests technology may provide innovative solutions and/or produce additional risks. On cooperation, the report stresses the importance of collaboration among countries, sectors and societies in managing risks.

The WRI identifies six environment and development stories to watch in 2017 at its annual ‘Stories to Watch’ event. On the incoming Trump administration, WRI reflects on its potential policy decisions on the environment and climate change, including standards on energy efficiency, methane and ozone emissions and clean water and ways in which local leaders may respond to possible shifts, particularly on climate action. On global energy markets, WRI predicts that clean and renewable energy will continue to increase. On international momentum on climate change, WRI draws attention to a group of 38 countries and eight institutions that are working to accelerate action and raise ambition on implementation of national climate goals and raises questions on India’s solar targets, China’s national carbon market and the UN Secretary-General’s prioritization of climate change.

On the role of businesses and investors in accelerating momentum towards sustainability, WRI stresses the “private sector is really driving the agenda” and identifies companies’ setting of science-based targets, including on land and water use, and the Business Commission on Sustainable Development’s report as key benchmarks to watch. On sustainable food, WRI questions whether beef producers will diversify and if consumer demand for plant-based proteins and sustainable alternatives will grow. On mobility trends, WRI reflects on the potential for integration of automation, ride-sharing and electrification trends.

Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations highlights ten summits to watch in 2017 and emphasizes potential actions by the incoming Trump administration in the US. On the Ocean Conference, which aims to encourage conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, Patrick highlights significant global attention on marine environmental protection over the past four years while questioning whether the US will continue to play a leading role under the Trump administration. On the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Patrick reflects on whether the US will remain committed to the global climate change agenda and welcomes the conference’s organization by Fiji, a small island developing State (SIDS).

Other highlighted events include: the EU Summit, with the UK expected to begin negotiations over Brexit; the Group of 7 (G7) Summit, which will focus on the global migration crisis and may address the G7’s relationship with and sanctions on the Russian Federation; the Group of 20 (G20) Summit, which is expected to focus on sustainable development, implementation of the Paris Agreement, peace and development in Africa, economic resilience and women’s empowerment; the opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), with a focus on US President Trump’s statement and US-UN relations; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Leaders Summit; the Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit; and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summit, including possible shifts in US-Asia relations and discussion of maritime disputes.

The editors of the SDG Knowledge Hub highlight several key themes to watch for in 2017, including: SDG-related integration; national monitoring and reporting, including lessons on SDG implementation from the second round of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs); the contribution of indicators to tracking the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s implementation; and the development of partnerships and finance. The editors highlight how key developments, including the Ocean Conference, the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) and the German Presidency of the G20, will provide an opportunity to embrace linkages among the SDGs. The policy brief further reflects on opportunities for elaboration of individual country targets as part of SDG implementation, expected climate discussions and action, and financing for sustainable development, among other topics. [WRI Blog] [WEF Press Release] [2017 Global Risks Report Website] [Council on Foreign Relations Blog] [SDG Knowledge Hub Policy Brief on 2017 Trends] [Ocean Conference Website]


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