16 October 2019
Financing, Climate, Biodiversity Take Stage in Second Committee Debate
Photo by IISD/ENB
story highlights

Numerous governments emphasized that the adverse effects of climate change are “severely hampering” developing countries’ efforts to achieve the SDGs.

Many also called for “urgent and significant actions” to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and prevent the extinction of threatened species.

On financing for development, the US said it “does not want to displace private sector players or pursue initiatives that should be undertaken by national governments”.

8 October 2019: The UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) committee on economic and financial issues held its general debate for the 74th session. Delegates highlighted that barriers to developing countries’ SDG achievement include wealth inequality, inadequate international financing and reduced official development assistance (ODA). Committee members also stressed the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions, halt biodiversity loss, monitor water sources and honor the commitments made in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Opening the meeting on 7 October 2019, Cheikh Niang, Permanent Representative of Senegal and Chair of the Second Committee, emphasized that unless the international community accelerates action, a number of SDG targets will not be reached by 2030, including those on reducing poverty, achieving food security, preventing biodiversity loss and decreasing GHGs. He said the Committee’s work will address four megatrends shaping “the trajectory of sustainable development”: economic growth, inequality, climate change and technological innovation.

The Second Committee is addressing key megatrends affecting sustainable development, including economic growth, climate change and technology.

Delivering a keynote address, Patrick Keys, Colorado State University, US, said vast holdings in offshore banks and tax havens and hidden financing of activities create a global financial system that “enriches the few at the expense of the many.” He questioned whether sustainable development is possible with the current backdrop of wealth inequality and accelerating global environmental change, proposing restorative and circular economics as solutions. He underlined that, alongside technological solutions, the international community should “vastly expand” nature-based solutions that “work with, rather than against, ecosystems and the planet.”

The general debate took place from 7-8 October. Palestine for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/ China), with the EU, Belize for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), New Zealand also for Australia and Canada (CANZ), and Ecuador called for “urgent and significant actions” to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and prevent the extinction of threatened species. Malawi for the least developed countries (LDCs) noted that shortfalls in the LDCs’ economic growth may be attributed in many cases to climate change and increased global uncertainty.

Philippines for the Like‑minded Group of Countries Supporters of Middle‑Income Countries (MICs) urged the UN development system to elaborate a “comprehensive system‑wide, long‑term strategy” aimed at facilitating sustainable development through provision of coordinated support to MICs. They also called on the international community to increase MICs’ access to development financing and climate finance to support national development plans and objectives, and underscored the need to advance towards multidimensional criteria that go beyond income per capita.

Jamaica for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) noted that its Member States face high debt burdens and restricted access to concessional financing, explaining that the classification system used by international financial systems is “overly reliant” on per capita income as indicator for development. Fiji for the Pacific SIDS said criteria to access financing must consider vulnerability and fragility to the effects of climate change and natural hazards, to ensure the most climate vulnerable are assisted.

AOSIS urged the international community to “fashion an appropriate response to drive a wedge between the cycle of extreme events and attendant high debt” to allow small island developing States (SIDS) to sustain socioeconomic gains and build resilience. She added that the Second Committee should call for urgent action to slow biodiversity loss and global GHG emissions through investments in low-emissions, climate-resilient pathways. CANZ called to pay special attention to the needs of LDCs, SIDS and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs).

Zambia for the African Group requested the Committee to address illicit financial flows (IFFs), with Liechtenstein noting its emphasis on tackling financial flows stemming from modern slavery and human trafficking. The EU noted that the 2019 Committee’s theme ‘Inclusive societies based on new economic models and sustainable use of resources’ requires a just transition to a green economy and the circular economic model. The UK said that harnessing private and multi-stakeholder investment is critical in mobilizing the resources needed.

The US noted that the Second Committee cannot justify issuing annual reports or resolutions, and negotiating on a biannual or triannual basis would be better. He added that the US “does not want to displace private sector players or pursue initiatives that should be undertaken by national governments.”

Sierra Leone stressed that ODA remains a key source of international financing for the LDCs, and its decline is “alarming.” He urged development partners to fulfil their commitments to LDCs, including on aid for trade, financing for development, technology transfer, and capacity‑building for LDCs in fragile situations. Pakistan called on developed countries to scale up beyond 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) for ODA, emphasizing that corruption must be fought both at home and tracked down globally.

Cuba noted that only five countries have honored their ODA commitments and suggested that an alternate financial architecture is needed. Belarus brought attention to the declining global growth rates caused by the global instability triggered by increasing trade and debt tensions. Supported by Iran, he called for ending unilateral economic coercive measures.

The Republic of Korea emphasized that the international community “must never allow any attempt to check the independence of sovereign states, which he said is apparent when identifying sanctions applied by “a specific country” targeting as many as 70 countries.

On climate change, G-77/China, Bolivia, Botswana, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkey and others emphasized that the adverse effects of climate change are “severely hampering” many developing countries’ efforts to achieve the SDGs. Delegates noted negative effects of climate change on the quantity and quality of fresh water resources, and presented national plans and actions including reforestation and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Japan said it stands “on the front lines of global decarbonization” through measures that include innovation and accelerating a virtuous cycle of environmental protection and growth. Monaco announced plans to replenish the Green Climate Fund (GCF) by €3 million by 2022. Thailand for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) noted that it is strengthening ASEAN cooperation to enhance response to climate change and its capacity to address natural hazards through the ‘One ASEAN One Response’ approach. [UN Meeting Summary – 7 October][UN Meeting Summary – 8 October]

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