SDG 12 Review at HLPF Calls for Circular Economies, Sustainable Lifestyles
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Day 5 of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) included a review of global progress towards achieving SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production (SCP).

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) highlighted its 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP, SDG target 12.1), and many delegates presented their national actions on promoting a circular economy.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) stressed that the extraction of raw materials in developing countries is supporting unsustainable levels of consumption in the developed world.

12 July 2018: Day 5 of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York included a review of global progress towards achieving SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production (SCP). The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) highlighted its 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP, SDG target 12.1), and many delegates presented their national actions to promote a circular economy. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) stressed that the extraction of raw materials in developing countries is supporting unsustainable levels of consumption in the developed world.

Discussions drew on an HLPF background note on SDG 12 that noted the range of challenges faced in responding to different levels of development and differing capacities among countries, including small island developing States (SIDS), least developed countries (LDCs) and countries in vulnerable situations. It indicated that, despite the challenges, SDG 12 remains the least well-resourced of all SDGs. The note refers to “serious concern” regarding the lack of an adequate monitoring framework for many of the targets under SDG 12, as 10 out of the 13 indicators associated with this goal are classified as Tier IIII indicators, meaning that there are no internationally established methodology or standards available as yet for tracking progress on these indicators.

Shashwat Sapkota, UN Statistics Division (UNSD), UNDESA, presented part of the SDG Report 2018, which was prepared by UNSD based on data from national statistical systems and input from international organizations. He observed a large gap between domestic material consumption, which refers to materials extracted within a country for use in production processes, and its material footprint, which relates to the amount of raw materials extracted globally to meet that country’s consumption demand. On this issue, the HLPF background note reports that developed countries currently have at least double the per capita footprint of developing countries in relation to all kinds of materials; in particular, the material footprint for fossil fuels is more than four times higher for developed countries than developing countries. Sapkota called for sustainability reporting by companies (SDG target 12.6), and for countries’ policies to increasingly address SCP.

In his keynote address, Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, stated that SDG 12 is “at the heart and soul” of the 2030 Agenda. He noted that the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda are “our plan to make this right” and to progress to a low-carbon, sustainable way of life. He commented that, “we sleepwalked our way” into the ocean plastics crisis, and that the way out will rely on implementing SCP principles.

Inga Rhonda King, Vice-President, Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC), chaired the session, and Elliot Harris, UNDESA, moderated the discussion, which began with comments by panelists from Indonesia’s National Development Planning Ministry, the Austrian Parliament, Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, and the African Roundtable on SCP.

Lead discussants from the Future Earth research consortium and the Workers and Trade Unions Major Group launched the deliberations, in which several speakers, including the EU, France, and Finland, emphasized the need for a circular economy approach. Finland called for the current “linear” flows of raw materials to become circular. Belgium and Estonia presented national plans for their respective countries to become circular economies, and Poland stated that such a transition would include new business models, a “bio-economy,” and sustainable levels of consumption. Ireland and Malaysia described national requirements for green public procurement (SDG target 12.7) in their countries, with Ireland requiring 50% and Malaysia 20% of public procurement to respect green criteria.

The Children and Youth Major Group called for a shift away from growth-focused economic models toward circular economies. Norway expressed support for youth involvement, and called attention to the upcoming ReGeneration 2030 Summit for people of the Nordic and Baltic Sea region.

On chemicals and waste (SDG target 12.4), Switzerland called for transparency of the extractives sector. Sweden highlighted the need for sound chemicals management, and Uganda drew attention to the issue of electronics waste. Denmark presented its national strategy for reducing plastic waste. Thailand highlighted its knowledge exchange between local and national levels of government on waste management.

On food waste (SDG target 12.3), the Rome-based agencies stressed that sustainable food systems will play a critical role, and Switzerland also highlighted the issue.

Several speakers discussed the 10YFP with regard to their involvement in one or more of its programmes, and its role in addressing SDG 12 challenges. Charles Arden-Clarke, UNEP, briefed delegates on the launch of the One Planet Network, a platform for action on SDG 12. Jane Nyakang’o, African Roundtable on SCP, described efforts to align SDG 12 with Africa 2063 and the green economy, and Ulf Jaeckel, Federal Ministry of the Environment, Germany, invited all concerned to join the One Planet Network.

Panelist Petra Bayr Parliamentary Sustainable Development Committee, Austria, concluded the session with a call for making a sustainable lifestyle “easy and sexy.” [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources][HLPF Background Note] [IISD RS Report on Day 5 of HLPF] [One Planet Network Website] [ReGeneration 2030 Summit Website]


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