For many who reside in the Northern hemisphere, August is a month filled with family vacations and out-of-office messages as things slow down in the lull of summer heat. Not so for those of us working in sustainable development. It has barely been two weeks since the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) concluded in New York, US, and we are already tracking several important meetings taking place in August – a harbinger of an even busier September.

The HLPF held in July marked a turning point in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as it completed the first four-year cycle for reviewing progress on the 17 SDGs and sharing experiences in implementing the SDGs at the national level, with 142 UN Member States presenting voluntary national reviews (VNRs) in the past four years. The 2019 HLPF also took time to consider the overall state of the 2030 Agenda, especially in the context of a changed geopolitical environment since it was adopted in 2015.

As reported by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, the overall message was clear: we are not on track to achieve most of the SDGs by 2030. However, as the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President said during the closing session, success is still possible if we “all stay together.” To do this, inequality must be addressed and inclusion for all must be secured.

Looking towards the SDG Summit (24-25 September), HLPF speakers exhorted Heads of State and Government to bring concrete “acceleration actions” to UN Headquarters, much as the UN Secretary-General has called for specific deliverables to be announced during the UN Climate Action Summit that will take place the preceding day (23 September). Indeed, concern about the world’s “climate emergency” permeated much of the HLPF’s discussions, and the two high-level gatherings in September are expected to emphasize how closely human well-being is tied to a thriving natural environment.

As governments, the UN and stakeholders prepare for these September summits, they will also hold several related meetings in August. One of the highlights of the month is the 2019 G7 Summit, presided over by France. The Summit will focus on fighting inequality, including reducing environmental inequality by protecting our planet through climate finance and a fair ecological transition, and preserving biodiversity and the oceans. Many of these issues feature prominently on this month’s calendar.

At the beginning of August, the 50th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to approve the Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL), which addresses climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management (SLM), food security and greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. The SRCCL is the second of three special reports produced by the Panel in its sixth assessment cycle. The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) was released in October 2018, and the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) is expected to come out later this year.

The Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week will take place in Salvador, Brazil, at the end of the month. Among the many issues on the agenda are climate finance to advance SDGs 13 (climate action) and 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), and industry and energy transition under SDGs 8 (decent work and economic growth) and 7 (affordable and clean energy). Part of Regional Climate Weeks that are held in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and Asia-Pacific, the Week’s 2019 edition will provide a contribution to the Climate Action Summit in September.

The first meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will convene from 27-30 August, to advance preparations for the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which is expected to be adopted by the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, in 2020. Read SDG Knowledge Hub policy briefs on the post-2020 framework and on the linkages between biodiversity and the SDGs here and here.

The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP18) will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17-28 August 2019. CoP18 was originally scheduled to take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 23 May to 3 June 2019, but, following the events in Sri Lanka on 21 April, was postponed. CoP18 will consider 107 agenda items and 57 species listings proposals, including proposals to add additional sharks, rays and timber species. Decisions taken at the Conference will have direct impacts on biodiversity, people’s livelihoods and national economies.

The Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) will convene for a two-week session in New York. This third session follows the first and second sessions, which took place in September 2018 and March-April 2019, respectively. Delegates will consider draft text of an agreement. The meeting is expected to advance negotiations on: marine genetic resources, including questions on benefit-sharing; area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments (EIAs); and capacity building and marine technology transfer, among other issues.

The month will conclude with two water events. The 31st UN-Water meeting, taking place from 23-24 August in Stockholm, Sweden, will bring together UN-Water Members and Partners to discuss issues related to UN-Water. The meeting will convene immediately prior to the annual World Water Week.

We look forward to bringing you news from these and many more events in August, as we move into the final months of 2019.

Elena Kosolapova, Faye Leone