12 July 2019: Delegates at the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) discussed progress and challenges related to SDG 13 (climate action), as one of a sub-set of SDGs that received special focus during the session. Presenters and delegates discussed national initiatives to spur climate action, the linkages between SDG 13 and other SDGs, and the importance of climate finance, including for adaptation, among other issues.

UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Vice-President Omar Hilale chaired the discussion. He called for the creation of a “virtuous cycle” for climate action. Keynote speaker Luis Alfonso de Alba, UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, said the Summit, which will convene on 23 September, needs realistic plans that increase ambition and result in a 45% reduction of emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

Moderator Ovais Sarmad, UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary, highlighted that climate change affects many of our achievements and is a threat multiplier, and called for a focus on inclusive approaches and coordination at all levels.

Carolina Schmidt, Minister of Environment, Chile, and President-designate of the 25th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 25) to the UNFCCC, identified seven priorities for COP 25: ambition in implementation; rules for carbon market mechanisms; climate finance; science for climate solutions; adaptation and loss and damage; forests and food security; and oceans and climate change. She said gender will be a crosscutting theme.

Climate change affects many of our achievements and is a threat multiplier.

Leena Srivastava, Co-Chair, UNSG’s Science Advisory Group for the Climate Action Summit, said the direction of linkages between climate change and sustainable development is established in the literature, but “siloed” approaches to addressing climate change and SDGs continue.

Panelist Javier Manzanares, Green Climate Fund (GCF), said the GCF has directed USD 5.23 billion in climate finance to 99 developing countries for 110 adaptation and mitigation projects in the last four years, in addition to capacity-building and readiness activities.

Panelist Penny Abeywardena, New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, challenged cities to develop Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs).

Discussant Mami Mizutori, UNSG’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), said 90% of the natural disasters over the past 30 years are related to climate change and extreme weather events, and failing to include climate change in DRR plans could negate DRR efforts. Discussant Rola Dashti, UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), highlighted the work of the Arab Centre for Climate Change Policies, and reported on climate action related to renewable energy, wastewater recycling, and climate-smart agriculture (CSA). Discussant Zhao Dong, Xiamen Airlines, China, reported actions by the Airline to promote energy savings, emissions reductions, and decreased fuel consumption. Discussant Dimakatso Sekhoto, World Farmers’ Organisation, described the ‘CLIMAKERS Initiative,’ launched at COP 24 to help farmers deal with climate change by sharing best practices.

During the discussion, countries described governance initiatives and policies to address climate change, such as Germany’s establishment of a “Climate Cabinet” to implement climate-related targets for 2030. Viet Nam announced the creation of a National Committee on Climate Change. France described the High Council on Climate Change, created to advise on climate policy and hold government to account for the Paris Agreement pledges. Côte d’Ivoire highlighted the establishment of the National Commission for Climate Change, adoption of climate-related legislation, and updating of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). Switzerland called on countries to review fossil fuel subsidies. New Zealand described plans for a “just transition” to a low-emissions economy, designed in consultation with local communities. The Russian Federation reported national preparations to ratify the Paris Agreement.

Speakers noted their national climate-related actions, such as China’s commitment to address climate change through its Belt and Road initiative. Nepal described plans to transform 29% of its public transport fleet to electric. Speakers also discussed the need for international financial assistance, including for adaptation. South Africa asked how the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will address unfulfilled pledges and losses due to foreign exchange volatility.

Synergies between climate action and other SDGs were highlighted. Mexico highlighted links between SDG 13 and the Paris Agreement and job creation in the energy sector. Canada said climate action will be most effective when women and girls play a role in designing climate initiatives. Niger highlighted the link between climate change and security in countries in the Sahel region.

In concluding remarks, panelists said the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” should focus on accelerating action on climate change and the SDGs. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources][IISD RS coverage of HLPF]